Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

In 2006 following two high profile affirmative action US Supreme Court decisions dealing with affirmative action at the University of Michigan, a public institution, Michigan voters passed Proposal Two [PDF], a state constitutional ban on affirmative action in public employment, public education, and public contracting, with exceptions connected to federal law. The US Supreme Court ruled, in a 6-2 plurality decision, that this ban was not prohibited by the US Constitution, thus overturning a US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decision that found the ban in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The day after the voters passed Proposal Two, on November 8, 2006, a case was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against the Attorney General challenging the amendment as unconstitutional. The District Court granted summary judgment in the action to the defendant. The Sixth Circuit Court fully overturned that decision on November 15, 2012, ruling that the law violated the US Constitution. The US Supreme Court granted certiorari on March 25, 2013, and held oral arguments on October 15, 2013.

The plurality opinion of the US Supreme Court, released on April 22, 2014 and written by Justice Robert Kennedy, found that there was no constitutional requirement that the Michigan vote be set aside. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the plurality. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurrence in the judgment that was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Stephen Breyer also wrote a concurrence. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined. Justice Sotomayor's dissent began by saying, "[w]e are fortunate to live in a democratic society," but warned, "without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups." Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the decision.

The Schuette in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is Bill Schuette, the Michigan Attorney General since 2011. Schuette was chosen as the original defendant in this case because it is his job to defend the laws of the state. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, commonly referred to as BAMN ("By Any Means Necessary") is a non-profit advocacy group that was originally formed in 1995 to fight the ban on affirmative action by the Regents of the University of California System. BAMN was also involved in the earlier legal battles over affirmative action at the University of Michigan.

 

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