Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on the Fate of Affirmative Action Law
The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments in a case challenging the Affirmative Action Law on July 2. The case is one of the most controversial, as the plaintiffs seek to end a system of affirmative action that they say unfairly benefits white students (see the AP story).
The University of California, Hastings College of Law faces the prospect of losing its legal challenge to affirmative action — a case with a long, complicated history that now has the potential to make or break the law.
The landmark case came to the Court in 1982 over a request for a temporary restraining order filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said that the California law prohibiting affirmative action in higher education had deprived black and Hispanic families of funding to attend the University of California schools.
The law, passed in a special session of the California legislature in 1978, was intended to counteract the historic underrepresentation of minority students in the law schools. The law banned affirmative action in college admissions, employment screening and graduate school.
The law went into effect in July 1981, but it was not immediately challenged in court. That changed when the ACLU filed the suit in California.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Regents of University of California v. Bakke that California’s law violated Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed every American citizen the right “to have effect upon them the laws of the United States.” A “law” has traditionally been understood to be an ordinance, statute or regulation.
The majority in the Supreme Court’s opinion, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, noted that “the Court has long recognized [that] any program which selects for admission students ‘solely on the basis of their racial characteristics’ is subject to strict scrutiny.”
The Bakke decision in 1992 created a major obstacle for the University of California, Hastings College of Law, which was seeking to overturn the law rather than follow a narrowly tailored remedy. “If the University loses, the entire law school system will go up the hill and the rest of