ACSBlog

  • April 24, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Gabriel J. Chin, Professor of Law, University of California Davis School of Law

    Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (BAMN), decided this week, did not deal another blow to affirmative action, exactly, but it upheld an earlier attack. The justices, 6-2 with Justice Kagan recused, approved a Michigan law prohibiting voluntary affirmative action in higher education.  The eight participating justices issued five separate opinions. 

    In 2006, the voters of Michigan responded to the Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, allowing affirmative action to promote educational diversity by passing an initiative banning it.  The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary persuaded a panel of the Sixth Circuit, and then a majority of the court en banc, that Michigan’s ban was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit was on firm ground; Washington v. Seattle School District Number 1, a 1982 decision, invalidated an initiative banning voluntary bussing to achieve racial integration.  The laws at issue were, seemingly, indistinguishable: Both involved initiatives meant to squelch voluntary measures to achieve racial integration, in situations where remedies where not legally required. The Seattle case built upon earlier decisions invalidating anti-civil rights initiatives.

    I read Justice Kennedy, whose plurality opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Alito, as distinguishing Seattle School District Number 1 on a subtle point: the identity of the beneficiaries. Voluntary bussing to achieve integration has often been defended because it benefits the racial minorities or other disadvantaged pupils who are bussed. Prohibiting voluntary bussing harms minorities, and thus might be a subject of equal protection concern. The trick, though, is that since Bakke, in 1978, diversity has been the compelling interest justifying voluntary affirmative action in higher education. African-American students are not admitted under Bakke or Grutter primarily for their own benefit, but instead, for the benefit of other students – thus Richard Delgado’s famous observation that affirmative action is a “majoritarian device” for the benefit of whites. Since affirmative action in higher education cannot be primarily for the benefit of minorities, its elimination is also not necessarily to their disadvantage.  Thus, unlike this case, Justice Kennedy explained, the older cases in which the court invalidated initiatives “were ones in which the political restriction in question was designed to be used, or was likely to be used, to encourage infliction of injury by reason of race.”

  • April 24, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Liliana M. Garces, William C. Kidder and Gary Orfield

    Garces is an Assistant Professor of the Higher Education Program and Research Associate of the Center for Study of Higher Education at Penn State College of Education. Kidder is the Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor at UC Riverside. Orfield is the Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning and Co-Director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA.

    Chief Justice Hughes famously said that a dissenting opinion is “an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.” Dred Scott, the Civil Rights Cases, Plessy, KorematsuIn these and other landmark race-related cases, dissenting Justices spoke eloquently to “the intelligence of a future day” in laying bare the errors in the holding and reasoning of the Court’s majority opinions.

    Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion in Schuette, joined by Justice Ginsburg, is both brooding and compelling in the way it speaks to an intelligence of a future day, a day when, “as members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter.”

    We deeply regret the decision by the Supreme Court upholding Michigan’s ban on race-sensitive admissions as constitutional and overturning the Sixth Circuit’s en banc ruling that the referendum violated the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection. On the heels of recent voting rights and campaign finance decisions—decisions that not only create enormous barriers but further weaken minority political power and increases the power of money—the Schuette ruling exemplifies how legal decisions can ignore the stark realities of our nation and the deep racial inequalities that continue to exist in America. 

    The reality in Michigan is that 64 percent of whites but only 14 percent of African-Americans (Michigan’s largest minority group) voted in favor of Proposal 2 in that state. And our research at the Civil Rights Project shows myriad educational inequalities in Michigan that corroborate Justice Sotomayor’s observation about the “simple truth that race does matter.” Michigan K-12 schools are some of the most racially segregated in the nation: over half (53 percent) of African-Americans in Michigan attend schools where less than ten percent of the student body is white.  And contrary to Justice Roberts’ facile notion that race-conscious programs “do more harm than good,” Michigan’s ban on these policies caused the proportion of African-Americans graduating from the University of Michigan Law School to drop below three percent, the lowest percentage at the School since 1969.

  • April 24, 2014

     
    A new Justice Department initiative could expand clemency eligibility for nonviolent drug offenders. Announced Wednesday by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, the plan “would canvass the entire federal prison population for the first time to find inmates who committed low-level crimes and could be released early.” Matt Apuzzo at The New York Times examines the implications of the DOJ’s decision. 
     
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor read her impassioned dissent in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action from the bench Tuesday, stating that the plurality were “out of touch with reality [and] one not required by our Constitution.” MSNBC’s Adam Serwer reports on the “simmering tensions over the high court’s approach to race.”
     
    Garret Epps at The Atlantic explains how Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner’s opinion involving a chicken-gutting case, demonstrates “how judges change details they don’t like.”
     
    Joel Mintz at the CPRBlog explains why the Environmental Protection Agency’s Final Enforcement Strategic Plan “contains a modest silver lining in an ominous dark cloud.”
     
    At Womenstake, Beccah Golubock Watson discusses a bipartisan effort by a group of senators to reduce sexual assault on college campuses.
  • April 23, 2014
     
    At The Daily BeastGeoffrey R. Stone, former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter as well as Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter, discusses his experience on the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and why “constant, rigorous, and independent review is essential if we are to strike the proper balance between liberty and security in a changing world.”
     
    The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case involving an “Ohio law that criminalizes the spreading of false information about a political candidate during a campaign.”  The challenge comes after an anti-abortion rights group mischaracterized former Rep. Steve Driehaus’ (D-Ohio) stance on abortion during his 2010 reelection campaign. Robert Barnes at The Washington Post has the story.
     
    Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on Affirmative Action in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the plurality whilewrote an impassioned dissent. Writing for SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe details the case.
     
    Peter Hardin at GavelGrab notes that if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chooses not to reappoint Chief Justice Stuart Rabner it could “give rise to the perception that Christie was attempting to intimidate judges working without tenure.”
     
    At The New Yorker’s Daily Comment Hendrik Hertzberg explains New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact.
  • April 22, 2014
    Today, the Supreme Court “upheld a Michigan voter initiative that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state’s public universities.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that “the Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat…but neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Adam Liptak at The New York Times has the story.
     
    Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The case deals with the issue of whether it can be a crime to falsify information about a candidate in a political campaign.  NPR’s Katie Barlow and Nina Totenberg break down this issue of free speech.
     
    Writing for The American Prospect, Virginia Eubanks explains why “Big Data might have disproportionate impacts on the poor, women, or racial and religious minorities.”
     
    David Gans at Balkinization responds to George Will’s column for The Washington Post , defending progressive’s constitutional interpretation which “does not force us to choose between liberty and democracy.”  
     
    At The Brennan Center for Justice, Walter Shapiro “[demystifies] the power of money in politics.”