WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to revisit affirmative action in state-college admissions, suggesting that a 2003 ruling that narrowly permitted race-conscious policies in public higher education may face tough scrutiny from today's more conservative court.
The case comes from the University of Texas at Austin, which said it based its admissions policy on that 2003 precedent, Grutter v. Bollinger. In the Grutter case, the court by a 5-4 vote held for the first time that racial diversity in higher education qualified as a compelling state interest—an essential finding when the government classifies individuals by race.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed with the university, as did the trial judge in Austin, whose ruling observed that "as long as Grutter remains good law, UT's current admissions program remains constitutional."
But Grutter's longevity has been in doubt since its author, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was succeeded by Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the four other conservatives in a 2007 ruling that forbade public-school districts from promoting diversity through race-conscious pupil-assignment plans.
Both sides view the Fisher case as a vehicle through which the high court could narrow or even overrule Justice O'Connor's opinion. FULL STORY