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Texas Affirmative Action Upheld by 5th Cir.

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

The University of Texas (UT) affirmative action policy has survived. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to review an earlier decision by the court that upheld the existence of affirmative action at the University of Texas.

The 5th Circuit's denial was by a 9-7 vote, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

The original lawsuit against the affirmative action policy was started in 2008 by two plaintiffs, Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michaelewicz. The two contended that UT's admissions policy, which considered race and ethnicity in its decisions, was unconstitutional, according to the American-Statesman.

In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks rejected the two students' lawsuit, declaring that the policy was narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest. A panel of 5th Circuit judges upheld this ruling, the American-Statesman reports.

The UT policy in question uses race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions, giving students from certain races and ethnicities a "plus factor," reports The Wall Street Journal.

Five of the dissenting judges in the 5th Circuit issued a dissent saying that the original 5th Circuit panel had incorrectly given the UT administrators deference, when they should have applied a strict scrutiny standard in analyzing the affirmative action, reports the American-Statesman.

Chief Judge Edith Jones argued that the ruling allowed UT administrators to enforce a race-conscious admissions program even though the Texas legislature had already passed a race-neutral law that would encourage diversity - the top 10% of a graduating Texas high school class are automatically given admission and the ability to enroll at UT, the American-Statesman reports.

Strict scrutiny is a form of judicial review that courts use to analyze whether or not a law is constitutional. Laws that involve discrimination such as against race, national origin, religion, alienage or poverty are analyzed under the strict scrutiny framework - that the law must be furthering a compelling governmental interest, and that the law must be "narrowly tailored."

Of course, the UT affirmative action case may not be completely over - the plaintiffs do have the option to appeal their case (and affirmative action at the University of Texas) to the Supreme Court.

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