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Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Legal Question:

Whether a university's use of race to grant admission violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection?

Plaintiff:

Abigail Noel Fisher

Defendant:

University of Texas at Austin and various officials in their official capacities

Amicus Curiae:

Mountain States Legal Foundation

Court:

Supreme Court of the United States
A decision by the Supreme Court of the United States

 

In 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that diversity was not a compelling governmental interest and that the University of Texas Law School's use of race for admission was unconstitutional. In response, Texas enacted a law requiring all Texas students graduating in the top ten percent of their class to be admitted to the University of Texas. As a result, the University of Texas was able to achieve the racial diversity that had existed on campus prior to the Fifth Circuit's ruling.

On June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court abrogated the Fifth Circuit's decision when it ruled, in Grutter v. Bollinger, that racial diversity could be a compelling interest for the University of Michigan School of Law. Thereafter, the University of Texas began using race as a basis for granting admission.

Ms. Fisher of Sugar Land, who graduated in the top 12 percent of her class, Rachel Multer and Ms. Michalewicz of Buda, who graduated in the top 11 percent of her class, applied for but were denied admission. In April 2008, they sued the University and its officials in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, alleging that they were denied the right to compete for admission on an equal footing with minority students in violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee. On August 17, 2009, the district court ruled in favor of the University of Texas based upon the Supreme Court's holding in Grutter.

Ms. Fisher and Ms. Michalewicz filed their opening brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on December 21, 2009. On December 28, 2009, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief urging the Fifth Circuit to reverse the ruling of the Texas federal district court. On August 3, 2010, oral arguments were held.

On January 18, 2011, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. On February 1, 2011, Ms. Fisher and Ms. Michalewicz filed a petition for rehearing en banc. On February 7, 2011, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Ms. Fisher and Ms. Michalewicz. On February 22, 2011, the University of Texas filed an opposition to the petition. On March 4, 2011, the Fifth Circuit accepted MSLF's amicus curiae brief. On June 17, 2011, over a strong dissent, the Fifth Circuit denied the motion for rehearing en banc. On September 15, 2011, Ms. Fisher filed her petition for writ of certiorari, which MSLF supported with an amicus curiae brief on October 19, 2011.

On February 21, 2012, the Supreme Court granted the petition.  Ms. Fisher filed her merits brief on May 21, 2012, and MSLF filed a supporting amicus curiae brief on May 25, 2012.  Oral arguments were held on October 12, 2012.  On June 23, 2013, the Court, in a 7-1 decision, held that the Fifth Circuit failed to apply strict scrutiny to the case and erred in shifting the burden to Ms. Fisher.  The Court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s decision, and remanded the case with orders that the Fifth Circuit apply strict scrutiny.  On November 13, 2013, following briefing by both parties, the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments on whether it should remand the case to the district court and, if not, whether the University’s plan is unconstitutional. 

On April 22, 2014, the University of Texas filed a notice of supplemental authority, citing the Supreme Court’s plurality decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action for the proposition that the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher did not disturb the principle that consideration of race in admissions is permissible.  On April 25, 2014, Ms. Fisher responded by arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision in Schuette is not pertinent because it presents a different issue not applicable to the case.  On July 15, 2014, the Fifth Circuit entered an order upholding the University of Texas’s admission policy.  On July 29, 2014, Ms. Fisher filed a petition for rehearing en banc.  On July 31, 2014, the Fifth Circuit ordered a response from the University of Texas.  On August 5, 2014, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the petition.  On August 11, 2014, the University of Texas filed its response to the petition.  On November 12, 2014, the Fifth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc

Ms. Fisher filed a petition for writ of certiorari on February 10, 2015.  On March 10, 2015, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief in support of Ms. Fisher’s petition.  On April 15, 2015, the University of Texas filed its opposition to the petition.  On May 4, 2014, Ms. Fisher filed her reply brief.  On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.  On September 3, 2015, Ms. Fisher filed her opening brief on the merits.  On September 10, 2015, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of MSLF in support of Ms. Fisher.  On November 25, 2015, Ms. Fisher filed her reply brief.  On December 9, 2015, the Court heard oral argument.

No Status Updates
  • U.S. Supreme Court Fails to End Use of Race by Universities

    Jun 23, 2016
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience in constitutional issues, which filed a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court of the United States urging that it reverse a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, expressed its dismay with the Court 5-3 ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Must End Use of Race by Universities

    Sep 10, 2015
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience in constitutional issues today filed its friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in a review of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upheld the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Will Review University of Texas’ Use of Race

    Jun 29, 2015
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience in constitutional issues today celebrated the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upheld the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Must Review University of Texas’ Use of Race

    Mar 16, 2015
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience in constitutional issues today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities.
  • University of Texas’ Use of Race Heads for U.S. Supreme Court

    Nov 12, 2014
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today declined to rehear a case on the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities following a three-judge panel’s 2-1 ruling upholding the University of Texas at Austin’s right to use the race of a Texas coed, Abigail Noel Fisher, to reject her.
  • Legal Brief on University of Texas’ Use of Race Accepted

    Aug 19, 2014
    The motion of a western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation to file a brief urging the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to rehear a case on the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities following a three-judge panel’s 2-1 ruling was granted today.
  • University of Texas’ Use of Race Must Be Reheard

    Aug 5, 2014
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today urged the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to rehear a case regarding the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities following a three-judge panel’s 2-1 ruling.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Remands Racialism by Universities Case

    Jun 24, 2013
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today expressed disappointment regarding a 7-1 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, on the constitutionality of the use of racial quotas by universities, to remand the case rather than to overturn a 2003 Supreme Court ruling. Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which won a landmark civil rights decision by the Court, filed a friend of the court brief urging the Court to reverse a ruling by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding the University of Texas at Austin’s right to use the race of a Texas coed, Abigail Noel Fisher, to reject her.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case On Racialism By Universities

    Oct 10, 2012
    DENVER, CO. A friend of the court brief by a western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation was before the Supreme Court of the United States today when the Court heard arguments on ending the use of racial quotas by universities by overturning a 2003 Supreme Court ruling. Mountain States Leg
  • U.S. Supreme Court Must End Racial Quotas By Universities

    May 29, 2012
    DENVER, CO. A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to end the use of racial quotas by universities by overturning a 2003 Supreme Court ruling. Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which won a landmark civil rights decision by th
  • U.S. Supreme Court Must Hear Appeals Court Race Ruling

    Oct 19, 2011
    DENVER, CO. A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to hear and reverse a ruling by a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit panel that upheld the right of the University of Texas at Austin to deny admission to a Texas coed, Abig
  • Appeals Court Denies Rehearing In Texas Race Case

    Jun 17, 2011
    DENVER, CO. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today refused to rehear a ruling by a three-judge panel upholding the right of the University of Texas at Austin to deny admission to two Texas coeds because of their race despite the strong urgings of a western nonprofit, public-interest
  • Appeals Court Must Reverse Ruling Allowing Use Of Race

    Mar 7, 2011
    >DENVER, CO. A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to hear and reverse a ruling by a three-judge panel upholding the right of the University of Texas at Austin to deny admission to two Texas coeds because of their race. Mo
  • Texas' Use Of Race For Admission Headed To Supreme Court

    Jan 18, 2011
    >DENVER, CO. A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation today praised the lengthy concurring opinion of a judge on a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled in the appeal by two Texas coeds denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin be


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