NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman praised the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision Monday to preserve a principle that fosters racial diversity in public universities.
The Supreme Court's 7-1 ruling in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, vacates a decision of the Fifth Circuit that upheld the University of Texas at Austin's race-conscious undergraduate admissions policy. The court sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit to determine if UT's current plan to achieve diversity satisfies strict judicial scrutiny.
"We are pleased that today's decision preserves the vital principle that fostering racial diversity in education is a compelling interest critical to the future of the states and our nation," Schneiderman said. "While we are disappointed the Supreme Court did not affirm the Fifth Circuit's decision, we are also pleased that the Supreme Court confirmed that courts should defer to a university's judgment on the educational benefits of a diverse environment, and made clear that a university need not exhaust other alternatives before considering race in admissions."
UT uses a combination plan that automatically admits the top ten percent of graduating high school students in the state and considers race as one of many factors in the admission of other students.
In January, Schneiderman submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a bipartisan coalition of 14 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. The brief urged the court to uphold UT's top ten percent law and outlined the state interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity.
States joining New York on the brief included West Virginia, Washington, Vermont, North Carolina, New Mexico, Montana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Maryland, Iowa, Illinois, Hawaii, Connecticut, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
The Supreme Court's decision puts off questions about the range of admissions programs meant to achieve racial diversity through means different from UT's that could be permissible under the Equal Protection Clause.