[JURIST] Lawyers for Abigail Noel Fisher filed a new appeal [cert. petition, PDF] before the US Supreme Court [official website] Wednesday, challenging, for a second time, the University of Texas [official website] affirmative action program. This prolonged legal battle began in 2008 when Fisher, a Caucasian student, was denied undergraduate admission to University of Texas at Austin and subsequently mounted this legal challenge against the university’s admissions policy, which allows the university to consider race and ethnicity during admissions processing. The petition for certiorari accuses the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website], on remand from the Supreme Court, of ignoring the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas [SCOTUSBlog backgrounder] in failing to apply strict scrutiny analysis. According to the petition, the “Fifth Circuit approved UT’s program under what amounts to a rational-basis analysis.” In July the Fifth Circuit found [JURIST report] that UT’s affirmative action policy was narrowly tailored to achieve the goal of diversity.
The intersection between state legislatures, the federal constitution, and the admission policies of public universities has created significant legal conflict surrounding affirmative action programs [JURIST backgrounder] in the US in recent years. In November the Fifth Circuit denied [JURIST report] Fisher’s petition for a rehearing en banc of their decision on remand. Also in November lawsuits were filed [JURIST report] in Massachusetts and North Carolina federal district courts against Harvard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [official websites], arguing that affirmative action policies should be banned at colleges across the country. In another affirmative action proceeding to reach the US Supreme Court, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], the court held [JURIST report] the judiciary lacks the authority to overturn a Michigan voter initiative that amended the state’s constitution to prohibit race and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public university admissions decisions.