Supreme Court Upholds Texas College’s Affirmative Action Plan

The Supreme Court today issued a decision on a major case.

ByABC News
June 23, 2016, 2:23 PM

— -- The Supreme Court today upheld the University of Texas’ policy that takes race into account as a component of its admissions process.

In a 4-3 vote, the justices upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, which ruled in favor of the state’s considering race in its admissions process.

This case is the second trip to the Supreme Court for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas and then filed a lawsuit challenging the university’s consideration of race in admissions.

In the first Fisher case, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts were too deferential to school administrators, requiring the courts to look more closely at evidence rather than accept school administrators’ assurances of their good intentions when considering race. A lower court took another look and stood by its earlier decision, and the case ended up back before the justices, who heard oral arguments Dec. 9, 2015.

Texas has a unique admissions program, which first takes approximately the top 10 percent of graduating seniors from each high school in the state. To fill the remaining spots, the system examines students’ applications in what it calls a holistic analysis, considering areas such as race, community service, leadership and family circumstances.

Fisher’s attorneys argued that the implementation of the top 10 percent program is sufficient to increase minority enrollment, so there is no need to take race into account when filling the remaining spots.

Fisher attorney Bert Rein argued in December before the Supreme Court that U.T. needed to prove that the use of race in its admissions process was a “necessary last resort” in pursuing diversity, taking into account reasonably available nonracial alternatives.

On behalf of U.T., former U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre argued before the Supreme Court in December that the Texas holistic plan is necessary to complement its other admissions process and that it has a “meaningful impact on diversity.”

He concluded by saying, “Now is not the time, and this is not the case to roll back student diversity in America.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli also argued in support of U.T.

At the time of oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, spawned the hashtag #StayMadAbby and was criticized when he suggested that it might not be a “good thing” for U.T. to admit as “many blacks as possible” and that perhaps black students should attend a “slower track school.”

There were only seven justices left on this case after Scalia died and Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because she worked on it when she was solicitor general.

Kate Shaw and Audrey Taylor contributed to this story.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story reported the vote in this case as 5-3. It was actually 4-3.

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Kate Shaw and Audrey Taylor contributed to this story.