Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

23Apr/140

Michigan & Affirmative Action: Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Dissent – April 22 2014

Many of you have seen or read stories by now about the Supreme Court's refusal to overturn the State of Michigan's ban on affirmative action in university admissions - decided upon as a change to the state constitution by voters during a 2006 statewide election. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, which issued it's ruling yesterday.  (Link to opinion below)

Dissenting were Justice Sotomayor and Justice Ginsburg, with Justice Kagan recusing herself, presumably because of her direct involvement during the earlier stages of the case.

There is much more to be said about the significance of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, but in the meantime, here is a short excerpt from the closing portion of Justice Sotomayor's 58-page dissent:

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. The political-process doctrine polices the channels of change to ensure that the majority, when it wins, does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success. Today, the Court discards that doctrine without good reason.

In doing so, it permits the decision of a majority of the voters in Michigan to strip Michigan’s elected university boards of their authority to make decisions with respect to constitutionally permissible race-sensitive admissions policies, while preserving the boards’ plenary authority to make all other educational decisions. “In a most direct sense, this implicates the judiciary’s special role in safe­guarding the interests of those groups that are relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to com­mand extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.” Seattle, 458 U. S., at 486 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court abdicates that role, permitting the majority to use its numerical advantage to change the rules mid-contest and forever stack the deck against racial minorities in Michigan. The result is that Michigan’s public colleges and universities are less equipped to do their part in ensuring that students of all races are “better prepare[d] . . . for an increasingly diverse workforce and society . . .” Grutter, 539 U. S., at 330 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.

I respectfully dissent.

You can click the link below to download and read the full ruling, including the concurring and dissenting opinions.

Justice Sotomayor's dissent begins on page 51 of the PDF file linked below.  From there, it reads 58 pages to the end of the PDF.

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (Michigan Affirmative Action Ruling - April 22 2014)

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