US Supreme Court hears oral arguments on affirmative action challenge

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin [transcript, PDF; JURIST report], in which the plaintiff is challenging the constitutionality of the university's affirmative action program. The plaintiff, Abigail Noel Fisher, was denied acceptance to the university and claims that her race was a determining factor in her rejection. Fisher's attorney, Bert Rein, urged the court to review its current leading precedent on affirmative action, Grutter v. Bollinger [opinion; JURIST symposium] and determine both whether the university's admissions policy is consistent with that opinion and whether that opinion is still good law. While Rein stopped short of saying that Grutter should be overruled, he advocated for clarification and giving less discretion to university officials in using race as an admissions factor. The university and the US Solicitor General argued that university officials have only used the policy as necessary to give its student body a "critical mass" of underrepresented minorities as allowed by Grutter. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last year upheld [JURIST report] the university's policy, saying that it was in compliance with the constitutional standards set forth in Grutter. The appeals court's ruling affirmed the ruling of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website], which also upheld the policy.

The court also heard arguments Wednesday in Moncrieffe v. Holder [transcript, PDF; JURIST report], involving what constitutes an "aggravated felony" for the purpose of determining whether an immigrant must be deported. The main issue is whether a conviction under state law which includes, but is not limited to, distribution of a small amount of marijuana without compensation constitutes an aggravated felony, notwithstanding that the record does not show that the defendant was convicted of conduct that would constitute a federal felony. If the Adrian Moncrieffe's conviction constitutes an "aggravated felony," he can be deported under federal statute 8 USC § 1227 [text]. The Fifth Circuit last year upheld [opinion] Moncreiffe's conviction and the classification as an aggravated felony, allowing for his deportation.

 

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