Fisher v. University of Texas

Following is the case brief for Fisher v. University of Texas, United States Supreme Court,(2013)

Case summary for Fisher v. University of Texas:

  • Fisher, a Caucasian woman, was denied admission into the University of Texas and challenged their admission procedures which included the consideration of an applicant’s race.
  • Fisher alleged the procedure violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
  • The lower courts sided with the university, and Fisher appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • The Court held that using an admissions process which included race as a factor was not unconstitutional if exercised in good faith and race is not used as the sole determinant.
  • The Court also held that such race based discrimination is subject to strict scrutiny and the admissions process must be narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest.

Fisher v. University of Texas Case Brief

Statement of the facts:

Fisher, a Caucasian woman, filed suit against the University of Texas at Austin in federal district court, claiming that the school’s consideration of race in the admissions process violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The University previously used a race base component, but replaced it with a Personal Achievement Index, taking into consideration student leadership, work experience, extra curricular activities, special circumstances and the socioeconomic status of the family. The Texas legislature simultaneously passed a law permitting the top ten percent of high school graduates automatic admission to a state University. Despite Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), the University of Texas continued using race as an express factor in computing its index for student who did not graduate in the top ten percent of their class.

 Procedural History:

The federal district court granted the University of Texas summary judgment. The court of appeals affirmed and Fisher petitioned to the United States Supreme Court for writ of certiorari.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

A state university that considers race as a factor in the admissions process must do so in good faith to make sure each applicant’s race is not the only determinant.

Issue and Holding:

Is an institution of higher education that considers race as a factor in the admissions process required to do so in good faith, making sure each applicant’s race is not the only determinant? Yes.

Judgment:

The court of appeals judgment was vacated and remanded.

Reasoning:

 Race may be used as a factor, however, it must be used in good-faith and cannot be the sole determinant in the institution’s admission decision. Under precedent set out in Grutter, if a college or university chooses to include race as a factor in its admissions process, the university must narrowly tailor its policy to further a compelling governmental interest.  The Court held that a diverse student body is certainly a constitutionally permissible goal for such an institution.

Here, the lower court improperly concluded that it should afford the University latitude in constructing an admissions process involving the consideration of race. This discretion does not include judicial deference. An institution must demonstrate that it admitted applicants based upon many factors to achieve diversity.

Since the lower court did not adequately review the use of race in the university’s admissions process to see if the process was narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest, the case must be remanded.

Concurring or Dissenting opinion:

Concurring (Thomas):

The U.S. Constitution prohibits public schools from forms of discriminating based on race. This includes discrimination that is necessary to survival of the school.

Concurring (Scalia):

The Constitution bars government discrimination based on race. State funded education is not an exception.

Dissenting (Ginsburg):

The judgment of the court of appeals should be affirmed since the university’s admission procedure satisfies the standard set out in Grutter.

Significance:

Fisher v. University of Texas built upon precedent set out in Grutter. It permitted the use of race in the admission process as a factor for consideration, however, race cannot be the sole factor and the discrimination is subject to the level of strict scrutiny.

Student Resources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/11-345
https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-981_4g15.pdf

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