New York Law School

The New Supreme Court Term

Monday, October 1, 2012 marked the commencement of the new term for the United States Supreme Court. This term is filled with controversial issues ranging from same-sex marriage to drug-sniffing dogs. Especially interesting are the race-related cases that are before the Court. The highly anticipated race-conscious admissions case, Fisher v. University of Texas, for which the Court heard oral arguments on October 10, is a very important case. Petitioner Fisher brought this equal protection action against the University of Texas alleging that she was denied admission and passed over for minority students due to UT’s race-conscious admissions program. The primary issue presented is whether race can be considered in admissions programs at institutes of higher education. The Court will revisit the most recent Supreme Court case regarding this issue, Grutter v. Bollinger, decided in 2003, where the Court upheld the use of race-conscious admissions programs in higher education when the state interest is to achieve diversity.  The Racial Justice Project submitted an amicus curiae brief with the National Black Law Students Association in support of the University of Texas.  The final decision in this case may have a reverse effect on the efforts made thus far to ensure equality in public education, or it may enable these efforts to continue.

Additional cases of interest are Shelby County v. Holder and Nix v. Holder, which the Court will consider petitions for certiorari on October 26. At issue in both of these cases is the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, Section 5 of the Act which requires that, prior to modifying their voting procedures, “covered jurisdictions” must receive “preclearance” by the United States Attorney General or a three-judge district panel in Washington, D.C. to ensure voting modifications do not have the intent or effect of racial discrimination. Covered jurisdictions like Shelby County, Alabama and Kinston, North Carolina have a long history of racism in their voting procedures, but Petitioners’ position is that Section 5 was not intended to be a permanent provision of the Act, and its applicability has expired. The Racial Justice Project submitted an amicus curiae brief with the Legal Defense Fund in support of the Attorney General in Shelby County, so we are anxiously awaiting the Court’s decision to either grant or deny certiorari.

This term will be nothing short of noteworthy as our Supreme Court continues to make history. So keep an eye out for these cases, as they are very important issues of our modern society and will have an impact on the legal community and the United States as a whole.

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