The U.S. Supreme Court decided last week to take up another case involving affirmative action in higher education. It agreed to review a federal appeals court ruling that struck down a 2006 Michigan ballot initiative that barred the use of racial preferences at state colleges and universities.
The court is still weighing whether race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Texas at Austin violate the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. It heard arguments in that case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, last October, and a decision could come at any time.
The new case is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (Case No. 12-682). Last November, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, voted 8-7 to invalidate Michigan’s Proposal 2 as it applies to state colleges and universities.
Proposal 2 also bars school districts from discriminating or granting preferential treatment on the basis of race (in addition to sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin), but the challenge decided by the 6th Circuit deals only with the measure’s operation in higher education in the state.
There was immediate speculation about the Supreme Court’s reasons for granting review of the Michigan case while the Texas affirmative-action case is pending. Normally, an appeal raising similar issues to that of a case already under review is held until the decision in the pending case is released.
It’s possible the justices think the issues raised in the Michigan case are sufficiently distinct from those in the Texas case. The justices also could be torn over the disposition of the Michigan case and could order reargument.
Arguments in the Michigan case will take place in the court’s next term.
A version of this article appeared in the April 03, 2013 edition of Education Week as High Court to Hear Arguments In Affirmative-Action Case