Statement on US Supreme Court Decision on Michigan Affirmative Action Case

Dear Members, Colleagues and Partners,

On April 22, 2014, in a 6 to 2 ruling the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in the case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The Charles Houston Bar Association strongly disagrees with the court’s ruling, which upholds a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions. In brief, the Schuette decision upholds the Michigan law, passed by 58 percent of Michigan voters, which prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment through consideration of race, sex, ethnicity, and national origin as a consideration in college admission decisions, government contracting, and public employment. “The case is a direct outgrowth of the Court’s 2003 decisions in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, which struck down the University of Michigan’s assignment of extra admissions “points” to African-American undergraduate applicants (Gratz), but approved the Law School’s cagier practice of considering race as part of a “holistic,” individualized review process (Grutter).i”

Based on this ruling, the court agrees that voters can strike down affirmative action initiatives which seek to provide opportunities for minorities in their states so that a certain class of citizens can continue to reap the majority of the benefits of education. At Michigan universities, African American undergraduate enrollment fell by 33 percent between 2006, the year before the Michican law could have affected admissions, and 2012, even as overall enrollment grew by 10 percent. During the same period, Hispanic enrollment declined by 10 percent. ii The Charles Houston Bar Association is concerned about this rapid decline, and the future of equal protection of the laws in college admissions.

Justice Sotomayor, joining in dissenting with Justice Ginsburg, stated “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination” She also stated, “As 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.”

Our fight for equality and justice still continue. To fulfill our mission, let’s do our part to make sure that there is access to the justice system and equal protection under the law.

Cometria Cooper
President, Charles Houston Bar Association


i Smith, Michael F. SCOTUS Blog