In a 7-1 decision announced earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule in Fisher v. University of Texas. The plaintiff in the case, Abigail Noel Fisher, sued the university after it did not admit her in 2008. Fisher, who is white, claimed "reverse discrimination" saying that the university admitted less-qualified minority students.
The Supreme Court "threw the case back to the lower courts for further review," CNN reports. "The court affirmed the use of race in the admissions process, but makes it harder for institutions to use such policies to achieve diversity."
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said the court's opinion accepts "the importance of diversity in higher education, but directed the lower courts to look more carefully at the method by which the university sought to achieve that goal."
The ACLU filed an amicus brief in the case urging the justices to uphold the Texas plan.
"Today's near-unanimous decision leaves intact the important principle that universities have a compelling interest in a diverse student body, and that race can be one factor among many that universities consider in a carefully crafted admissions program," said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Program. "We believe that the University of Texas has made a strong showing that its admissions plan was necessary to achieve meaningful diversity, and that it can and should be upheld under the standard that the Supreme Court announced today."
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson also released a statement about the court's decision:
“Today, the Supreme Court has preserved its commitment to diversity in higher education, and I urge the Texas 5th Circuit Appeals Court to do the same. Without affirmative action, millions of Americans would have been denied the opportunity to pursue an education in our school systems. From this country’s inception, students of racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds have constantly been forced to challenge their rights to an education," Thompson wrote. "I remain a strong proponent of affirmative action and will continue to seek justice for those without a voice.”
Earlier this month, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the court that will rehear the Fisher case, came under fire. A number of civil-rights organizations filed a June 4 complaint against Judge Edith H. Jones of Houston for alleged racial bias evidenced in a speech she delivered at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in February.
In the speech, Jones allegedly said that “racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,” and that a death sentence was a service to defendants because it allowed them to make peace with God, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/us/federal-judge-in-texas-is-accused-of-racial-bias.html?_r=1&">The New York Times reported.
The complaint "says such statements violated the judicial code’s requirement that a judge be impartial and avoid damaging public confidence in the judiciary," the Times reported.