The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order text, PDF] in two cases on Monday, including a new affirmative action case. The court will hear Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action [cert. petition, PDF; docket] on whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause [text] by amending its constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions. The case concerns Proposal 2 [JURIST report], a 2006 Michigan state constitutional amendment that prohibits preferential treatment based on "race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin" in public employment, public education and state contracting. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled the ban unconstitutional [JURIST report] late last year. Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from hearing the case, as she did in the affirmative action [JURIST news archive] case currently before the court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin [JURIST report], due to her involvement in briefing the issue as Solicitor General.
The court also agreed to hear United States v. Woods [cert. petition, PDF; docket] on whether 26 USC § 6662 of the Internal Revenue Code [texts], which prescribes a penalty for an underpayment of federal income tax that is "attributable to" an overstatement of basis in property, applies to an underpayment resulting from a determination that a transaction lacks economic substance because the sole purpose of the transaction was to generate a tax loss by artificially inflating the taxpayer's basis in property. The court also directed the parties to brief on whether the district court had jurisdiction in this case under 26 USC §6226 to consider the substantial valuation misstatement penalty.