Supreme Court to rule on University of Texas affirmative action policy

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] Tuesday in Fisher v. University of Texas [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether the court's decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Grutter v. Bollinger [opinion; JURIST symposium], permit the University of Texas at Austin's (UT) use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions. Petitioner Abigail Noel Fisher, a Caucasian student, was denied undergraduate admission to UT in 2008 and subsequently challenged the admissions policy, which allows the university to consider race and ethnicity during admissions processing. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled last year that the policy did not violate [JURIST report] Fisher's rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights statutes, affirming a lower court decision. The appeals court concluded that UT could rely on race as one of the "special circumstances" used to evaluate student applicants because race is one of many factors the university considers.

Also Tuesday the court agreed to hear Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether a floating structure that is indefinitely moored, receives power and other utilities from shore and is not intended to be used in maritime transportation or commerce constitutes a "vessel" under 1 USC § 3 [text], thus triggering federal maritime jurisdiction [DOJ backgrounder]. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that it was a vessel.

The court also allocated time for oral arguments in the health care appeal [JURIST report] as follows:

On the Anti-Injunction Act issue (No. 11-398), the Court-appointed amicus curiae is allotted 40 minutes, the Solicitor General is allotted 30 minutes, and the respondents are allotted 20 minutes.

On the Minimum Coverage Provision issue (No. 11-398), the Solicitor General is allotted 60 minutes, respondents Florida, et al. are allotted 30 minutes, and respondents National Federation of Independent Business, et al. are allotted 30 minutes.

On the Severability issue (Nos. 11-393 and 11-400), the petitioners are allotted 30 minutes, the Solicitor General is allotted 30 minutes, and the Court-appointed amicus curiae is allotted 30 minutes.

On the Medicaid issue (No. 11-400), the petitioners are allotted 30 minutes, and the Solicitor General is allotted 30 minutes.

Finally, the court issued per curiam decisions in two cases. In Wetzel v. Lambert [opinion, PDF], the court vacated a Third Circuit decision to grant a writ of habeas corpus to a Pennsylvania death row prisoner. In Marmet Health Care Center v. Brown [opinion, PDF], the court vacated the decision of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals which had held unenforceable all predispute arbitration agreements that apply to claims alleging personal injury or wrongful death against nursing homes.

 

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