By William Yeomans
Fellow in Law and Government at American University
Washington College of Law
Following the October oral argument in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, I wrote for this blog that the Court appeared poised to continue “its relentless march toward evisceration of remedies for racial discrimination.” That prediction was fulfilled yesterday when the Court issued its opinion, upholding the authority of the people of Michigan to amend the state constitution by referendum to prohibit consideration of race in university admissions. The vote was 6-2 in favor of the ban. Justice Breyer joined the five conservatives, Justice Sotomayor, joined by justice Ginsburg, wrote a vigorous and lengthy dissent, and Justice Kagan recused herself, presumably because she participated in the case as Solicitor General. Of course, because each Justice is free to choose to recuse or participate without the need to state a reason, we, the taxpayers, will never know for sure.
My previous post described more fully the facts and procedural posture of the case. Briefly, following the Court’s validation of the race-conscious admission process of the University of Michigan Law School in Grutter v. Bollinger, Ward Connerly launched a referendum drive to ban consideration of race from all elements of public life in Michigan, including university admissions. The people of Michigan approved the referendum by a vote split along racial lines; whites overwhelmingly supported it and African Americans overwhelmingly opposed it. The white majority voted to deny minority applicants a benefit that the Supreme Court had declared lawful and Michigan’s universities wished to continue. Referenda are rarely kind to minority rights. Read more