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Fisher v. Univ. of Tex.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 10, 2012, Argued; June 24, 2013, Decided

No. 11-345

Opinion

 [*300]  [**2415]   Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

The University of Texas at Austin University considers race as one of various factors in its undergraduate admissions  [*301]  process. Race is not itself assigned a numerical value for each applicant, but the University has committed itself to increasing racial minority enrollment on campus. It refers to this goal as a “critical mass.” Petitioner, who is Caucasian,  [*302]  sued the University after her application was rejected. She contends that the University’s use of race in the admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 [*303]  The parties asked  [****7] the Court to review whether the judgment below was consistent with “this Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 123 S. Ct. 2325, 156 L. Ed. 2d 304 (2003).” Pet. for Cert. i. The Court concludes that the Court of Appeals did not hold the University to the demanding burden of strict scrutiny articulated in Grutter and Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 305, 98 S. Ct. 2733, 57 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1978) (opinion of Powell, J.). Because the Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard of strict scrutiny, its decision affirming the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to the University was incorrect. That decision is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

 [*304]  I

Located in Austin, Texas, on the most renowned campus of the Texas state university system, the University is one of the leading institutions of higher education in the Nation. Admission is prized and competitive. In 2008, when petitioner sought admission to the University’s entering class, she was 1 of 29,501 applicants. From this group 12,843 were admitted, and 6,715 accepted and enrolled. Petitioner was denied admission.

In recent years the University has used three  [****8] different programs to  [***482]  evaluate candidates for admission. The first is the program it used for some years before 1997, when the University considered two factors: a numerical score reflecting an applicant’s test scores and academic performance in high school (Academic Index or AI), and the applicant’s race. In 1996, this system was held unconstitutional by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. It ruled the University’s consideration of race violated the Equal Protection Clause because it did not further any compelling government interest. Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932, 955 (1996).

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570 U.S. 297 *; 133 S. Ct. 2411 **; 186 L. Ed. 2d 474 ***; 2013 U.S. LEXIS 4701 ****; 81 U.S.L.W. 4503; 118 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1459; 97 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P44,850; 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 399; 2013 WL 3155220

ABIGAIL NOEL FISHER, Petitioner v. UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN et al.

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Fisher v. Univ. of Tex., 631 F.3d 213, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 897 (5th Cir. Tex., 2011)

Disposition: Vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

diversity, racial discrimination, strict scrutiny, educational benefit, schools, segregation, racial classification, student body, compelling interest, score, deference, ethnic, narrowly tailored, Top, attaining, decisions, Percent, benign, marks, blacks and hispanics, ethnic origin, good faith, discriminate, quotation, cases, color, compelling state interest, summary judgment, public school, race-neutral

Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, National Origin & Race, Education Law, Discrimination in Schools, Racial Discrimination, Admission & Recruitment, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Equal Protection, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, General Overview, Administration & Operation, Student Admissions, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation