Court Strikes Down Michigan’s Ban on Race-Conscious Admissions
A narrowly divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down a voter-passed ban on the use of race-conscious admissions by Michigan’s public colleges, holding that the measure had unconstitutionally put racial-minority members at a distinct legal disadvantage in seeking from public colleges the same preferential treatment that other categories of students enjoy.
The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, creates a clear division among the federal courts over the issues raised, because a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this year upheld a nearly identical California ban in a ruling that the full Ninth Circuit declined to reconsider. The existence of such a split between the federal circuit courts greatly increases the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court will feel compelled to weigh in on such bans on affirmative-action preferences, which have been adopted by voters in Michigan and five other states: Arizona, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington.
Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, responded to the Sixth Circuit’s ruling by announcing he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a written statement, he said the Michigan measure, passed by that state’s voters in 2006, “embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law.”
Ward Connerly, who played a central role in the 1997 campaign for the California ban and then helped lead the campaigns for similar ballot initiatives in Michigan and other states as president of the American Civil Rights Institute, expressed hope that in the Supreme Court “a voice of sanity might prevail, and we can get these ridiculous damn challenges to our initiatives out of the way once and for all.”