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February 22, 2017

Court's Ruling Sets Up Another Round on Affirmative Action

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court today issued its long-awaited ruling on affirmative action -- but didn't offer a definitive opinion on whether colleges may consider the use of race in admissions.

Ruling 7-1, the court found that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit erred in not applying "strict scrutiny" to the policies of the University of Texas at Austin. The case is Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, in which Abigail Fisher, a white woman rejected for admission by the university, said that her rights were violated by UT-Austin's consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. Fisher's lawyers argued that the University of Texas need not consider race because it has found another way to assure diversity in the student body.

The decision said that "good faith" by the university would not be enough to justify the consideration of race. But the decision -- by Justice Anthony Kennedy -- does not offer an opinion on whether the University of Texas can produce sufficient evidence. Rather, it faults the appeals court for not reviewing that question using the high bar of "strict scrutiny" for the consideration of race.

It is likely that today's ruling could mean that -- after another round at the Fifth Circuit -- the case could return to the Supreme Court.

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