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Admissions & race: Lenient scrutiny

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Monday, June 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

We're going to have to wait a while longer to learn if America's judicial system will honor the Equal Protection Clause and end feel-good, race-based college admissions.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday vacated and remanded to a lower court the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In a 7-1 ruling (with Justice Elena Kagan recused), the high court said the U.S. District Court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “did not hold the university to the demanding burden of strict scrutiny” required of it in prior rulings.

“Strict scrutiny does not permit a court to accept a school's assertion that its admissions process uses race in a permissible way without closely examining how the process works in practice,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority. The lower courts deferred “to the university's good faith in its use of racial classifications,” he said.

It was in 2008 that Abigail Fisher, who is white, sued the school, claiming she was denied admission in favor of a less-qualified minority.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas was more forthright, calling the school's practice “racial discrimination ... categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause” of the 14th Amendment.

And should the appellate court apply the required “strict scrutiny” standard as the high court now has ordered, the last vestiges of discrimination in the name of ending discrimination should be on the road to being erased.

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