• U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Michigan’s Affirmative Action Ban, Reverses Sixth Circuit in 6-2 Decision
  • April 30, 2014 | Author: Frank T. Mamat
  • Law Firm: Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, P.C. - Farmington Hills Office
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Michigan’s ban on using race as a factor in admissions to Michigan’s public universities. The case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, stems from a 2006 ballot measure approved by Michigan voters by 58 to 42 percent which enshrined a ban on affirmative action in the Michigan state constitution.

    The 6-2 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, overturns a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that the ban was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    Justice Kennedy emphasized that the case is not about the constitutionality or the merits of racial considerations in university admission policies, but rather concerns whether voters in a state may choose to prohibit such considerations. Specifically, Justice Kennedy wrote: “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

    This is not the first time that the University of Michigan has been at the front lines of the battle over racial preferences in university admissions. In 2003, a divided Supreme Court upheld the admission practices at the university's law school that involved the consideration of race, but struck down the method used by undergraduate admissions for making race too dominant a factor.

    That said, this ruling extends beyond Michigan’s public universities and community colleges. It also upholds the ban on a preference by the “state” based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. “State” is defined to include the state itself as well as “any city, county, any public college, university, or community college, school district, or other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality.”

    We will continue to keep you updated about the implications of today’s ruling.