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Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Background

On October 10, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Fisher v. University of Texas. The petitioner, Abigail Fisher, a white student, challenged the university's consideration of race in the undergraduate admissions process. Fisher, who was denied admission to UT Austin in Fall 2008, argued that UT's use of race in admissions decisions violated her right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

After the Fifth Circuit's Hopwood v. Texas decision in 1996, UT's race-conscious admissions ceased. In response, the Texas Legislature adopted the Top 10 Percent Law. Under this law, which affected admissions cycles beginning in 1997, seniors in the top 10 percent of their high school class are guaranteed admission to any Texas state university. The primary objective of the law is to draw in the best students from each Texas school, including students from predominantly black or hispanic areas, in order to achieve higher levels of diversity.

Following the Supreme Court upholding a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Michigan Law School in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, UT then reinstated a consideration of race in admissions decisions for those who don't fall within the Top 10 Percent Law.

The question presented was whether the Supreme Court's decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Grutter, permitted UT's use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions. Fisher claimed that either this use of race did not fall into the constitutional parameters of Grutter or that Grutter must be overturned.

Oral argument before the Supreme Court occurred on October 10, 2012. Justice Kagan recused herself from the case because of her participation as solicitor general when the case was before the court of appeals.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 24, 2013, by a vote of 7 to 1, to vacate the Circuit Court's opinion and remand the case back to the 5th Circuit for review under the "strict scrutiny" standard.

The 5th Circuit heard oral arguments on November 13, 2013, and ruled in favor of UT by a vote of 2 to 1 on July 15, 2014. On November 12, 2014, the 5th Circuit declined to rehear the case. Fisher petitioned to have the Supreme Court to review the case again, and that request was granted on June 29, 2015. Oral argument before the Supreme Court occurred on December 9, 2015. The Supreme Court ruled on June 23, 2016, by a vote of 4 to 3, to affirm the Circuit Court's opinion .

See Fisher v. University of Texas, 631 F.3d 213 (5th Cir. 2011).

See Fisher v. University of Texas, 133 S. Ct. 2411, 570 US __, 186 L. Ed. 2d 474 (2013).

See Fisher v. University of Texas, 758 F.3d 633 (5th Cir. 2014).

See Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 U. S. __ (2016).

Supreme Court Oral Argument (12/9/15)