Michigan Affirmative Action Case Before Supreme Court

Protesters in front of Supreme Court during Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin arguments. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Protesters in front of Supreme Court during Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin arguments. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Despite the ongoing government shutdown and employee furloughs, the Supreme Court opened its doors Monday to begin a new term. Many issues of national interest are expected to come up for discussion, including another case on affirmative action.

Next Tuesday, the court will hear arguments in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The justices will ultimately have to decide whether Michigan violated the Equal Protection Clause by banning affirmative action in its constitution. 

In 2006, 58 percent of Michigan voters approved a ballot proposal, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Proposal 2, which banned racial, ethnic or sex-based preferential treatment in public education admissions, government contracting and public employment.  


The plaintiffs in this case, who are attempting to overturn the initiative, are led by BAMN, also known as the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is among the defendants.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the voter-approved state ban was unconstitutional, saying that it "[reordered] the political process in Michigan to place special burdens on minority interests," before upholding the ruling again in 2012.

"Because less onerous avenues to effect political change remain open to those advocating consideration of non-racial factors in admissions decisions, Michigan cannot force those advocating for consideration of racial factors to traverse a more arduous road without violating the Fourteenth Amendment," Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. wrote for the majority, according to the Michigan Daily.

Schuette decided to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying in 2012 that it was constitutional and approved by the majority of state voters. "MCRI embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law," Schuette said, according to the news site. "Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit. We are prepared to take the fight for quality, fairness and the rule of law to the U.S. Supreme Court."


How the justices will rule on the case is anyone's guess. Earlier this year, when hearing arguments on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al., the justices gave the case back to the lower court to review, avoiding an actual decision of their own and creating an ambiguity in which both sides claimed victory.

Plaintiff Abigail Fisher, a white woman, had filed a lawsuit against the university in 2008 because she believed she'd been denied entry because of her race in favor of a minority student.


There may be one thing the justices should consider as they hear arguments: Black enrollment at the University of Michigan has dropped by about 30 percent at the undergraduate and law schools since the ban was made into law, Bloomberg reported late last month. 

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