Newest Supreme Court Challenge to Affirmative Action
by David Almasi
Washington, DC - Responding to the announcement that a new racial preferences case will be on the U.S. Supreme Court docket during the Court's 2013-14 term, members of the Project 21 black leadership network urge the Court to reinstate an amendment to the Michigan state constitution, enacted by state voters, that prohibits public colleges from using race as a determining factor in the admissions process.
"Entrance to colleges and universities should be based on merit," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. "We should aim to avoid a situation where graduation rates among students of color decrease after admission to elite colleges and universities under lowered admissions standards."
On March 25, the Court announced it will hear arguments in the case of Schuette v. Michigan Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action during the term that begins this fall. Like a case under current consideration, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Schuette concerns race-based college admissions standards. Schuette focuses on the constitutionality of a 2006 ballot initiative, Proposal 2, that amended Michigan's state constitution to, in part, ban race preferences in public college admissions.
Justice Elena Kagan, a former solicitor general for the Obama Administration, has recused herself from Schuette.
Some court watchers have speculated that Fisher may be handed down tomorrow.
"Time and time again, progressives tempt us with the idea that race is somehow an important component in determining which kids to admit to school and which kids to deny. This concept was unconstitutional in the 50s and 60s and it's unconstitutional today," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former congressional leadership legal counsel and constitutional law professor.
Project 21's LeBon added: "Our goal should be to educate students at institutions where they are adequately prepared and have the most chances to succeed, and ultimately graduate."
A district court judge upheld the initial challenge to Proposal 2, which was approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, struck it down last November after a razor-thin 8-7 vote of the full bench. That slim majority in this judgment argued that the loss of preferences imposed undue burden on minorities in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Supreme Court has the power to reject the 6th Circuit's decision, reinstating the decision of Michigan voters to have race-neutral policies govern public college admissions.
"Nearly 60 percent of Michigan residents came together to embrace the color-blind principle," added Project 21's Cooper. "That is an amazing accomplishment that the Court should recognize and endorse."
"The Supreme Court may not be able to go far enough with this case," said Project 21 member Stacy Swimp, a Michigan resident and prominent conservative activist in the state on issues that include civil rights, school choice and right to work. "They shouldn't stop at just the issue of quotas. If we are looking for a completely race-neutral society, let's stop asking the question. Stop asking questions about race -- for admissions, for loans, for grants and for anything else. The Court is taking baby steps when it should be leaping. If race doesn't matter, let's stop asking the question."
Project 21 is involved in two cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, having filed legal briefs in the Fisher case and the voting rights case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder Project 21 also was the only conservative organization to publicly appear on the Supreme Court plaza to challenge groups such as the NAACP and Al Sharpton's National Action Network during the Shelby County arguments. Project 21 members have recently discussed these issues and other topics in media interviews featured on MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Glenn Beck's Blaze TV, the nationally-syndicated Jim Bohannon radio show, Florida Public Radio and Reuters, among many others.