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Law School Case Brief

Schuette v. Coal. to Defend Affirmative Action - 572 U.S. 291, 134 S. Ct. 1623 (2014)


The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.


In a previous case, the United States Supreme Court decided that the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admission plan’s use of race-based preferences violated the Equal Protection Clause, but that the law school admission plan’s more limited use did not. Subsequent to the decision, Michigan voters adopted Proposal 2, now Art. I, § 26, of the State Constitution, which prohibited the use of race-based preferences as part of the admissions process for state universities. A coalition, prospective applicants and others, sued state officials, challenging the constitutionality of Mich. Const. art. I, § 26. The District Court granted summary judgment to Michigan, thus upholding Proposal 2, but the Sixth Circuit reversed, concluding that the Proposal violated the principles of Washington v. Seattle School. A petition for certiorari followed.


Should the Proposal, adopted by Michigan voters, be upheld?




The Court held that Michigan voters exercised their privilege to enact laws as a basic exercise of their democratic power, bypassing public officials they deemed not responsive to their concerns about a policy of granting race-based preferences. According to the Court, there was no authority in the United States Constitution or judicial precedent for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that committed the policy determination regarding racial preferences for admission to the state universities to the voters. The Court further contended that the state constitutional provision did not violate equal protection rights because it did not have a racially discriminatory purpose.

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