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Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin  

Last Updated: Apr 7, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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On October 10, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for Fisher v. University of Texas. The petitioner, Abigail Fisher, a white student, challenged the university's consideration of race in the undergraduate admissions process. Fisher, who was denied admission to UT Austin in Fall 2008, argued that UT's use of race in admissions decisions violated her right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

After the Fifth Circuit's Hopwood v. Texas decision in 1996, UT's race-conscious admissions ceased. In response, the Texas Legislature adopted the Top 10 Percent Law. Under this law, which affected admissions cycles beginning in 1997, seniors in the top 10 percent of their high school class are guaranteed admission to any Texas state university. The primary objective of the law is to draw in the best students from each Texas school, including students from predominantly black or hispanic areas, in order to achieve higher levels of diversity.

Following the Supreme Court upholding a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Michigan Law School in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, UT then reinstated a consideration of race in admissions decisions for those who don't fall within the Top 10 Percent Law.

The question presented was whether the Supreme Court's decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, including Grutter, permitted UT's use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions. Fisher claimed that either this use of race did not fall into the constitutional parameters of Grutter or that Grutter must be overturned.

Oral argument before the Supreme Court occurred on October 10, 2012. Justice Kagan recused herself from the case because of her participation as solicitor general when the case was before the court of appeals.

The Supreme Court ruled on June 24, 2013, by a vote of 7 to 1, to vacate the Circuit Court's opinion and remand the case back to the 5th Circuit for review under the "strict scrutiny" standard.

The 5th Circuit heard oral arguments on November 13, 2013.

See Fisher v. University of Texas, 631 F.3d 213 (5th Cir. 2011).

See Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345, slip op. (2013).


Latest News Articles

Adam Liptak, "Unofficial Enforcer of Ruling on Race in College Admissions," The New York Times, April 7, 2014.

Ilya Somin, "Assessing the Potential Impact of Fisher v. University of Texas on Affirmative Action Programs," Washington Post (Volokh Conspiracy blog), February 20, 2014.

Amanda Voeller, "Fifth Circuit Hears Oral Arguments for Fisher v. UT Case," The Daily Texan, November 13, 2013.

Manny Fernandez, "Texas University's Race Admissions Case is Debated Before a Federal Court," The New York Times, November 13, 2013.

Reeve Hamilton, "Between Fisher and Fawcett, a Big Day in Court for UT," Texas Tribune, November 13, 2013.

Editorial, "The Racial Runaround," The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2013.

Jacob Kerr, "Fisher v. UT Placed on Appellate Schedule," The Daily Texan, September 24, 2013.

Ilya Shapiro, "Fighting Dirty to Save Affirmative Action," USA Today, August 7, 2013.

Erwin Chemerinsky, "What's Next for Affirmative Action?," ABA Journal, August 6, 2013.

Editorial, "Texas Race Case Defiance," The Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2013.

Linda Greenhouse, "The Cost of Compromise," The New York Times, July 10, 2013.

Miriam Rozen, "U.S. Supreme Court Remands UT Affirmative Action Case," Texas Lawyer, July 1, 2013.

The Daily Texan Editorial Board, "The Real Victor in Fisher v. University of Texas Yet to be Determined," The Daily Texan, June 30, 2013.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., "Colorblind Justice: Clarence Thomas Discerns the Line Between Diversity and Equal Protection," The Washington Times, June 27, 2013.

George F. Will, "Tangled Web Spun by Supreme Court Remains Tangled," Contra Costa Times, June 25, 2013.

Tanya Katerí Hernández, "What to Celebrate and Lament About the Fisher Decision," The National Law Journal, June 25, 2013.

Jeneba Ghatt, "Fisher v UT: Diversity in College Admissions Upheld, But for How Long?," The Washington Times, June 25, 2013.

Theodore R. Johnson, "A Missed Opportunity on Racial Preferences," The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2013.

Editorial, "The Texas Race Dodge," The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2013.

John Schwartz and Richard Perez-Pena, "Lacking Definitive Ruling on Affirmative Action, Both Sides Claim Victory," The New York Times, June 24, 2013.

Adam Liptak, "Supreme Court Orders Lower Court to Reconsider Affirmative Action Case," The New York Times, June 24, 2013.

Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall, "Supreme Court Returns Affirmative-Action Case to Lower Court," The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2013.

Adam Liptak, "Supreme Court Weighs Cases Redefining Legal Equality," The New York Times, June 23, 2013.

Natasha Kumar Warikoo, "Who Gets Admitted to College?," The Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2013.

"Editorial: Discrimination By Another Name," The Washington Times, June 14, 2013.

Sherrilyn A. Ifill, "Race vs. Class: The False Dichotomy," The New York Times, June 13, 2013.

Carolyn Chen, "Affirmative Action and Breaking the 'Bamboo Ceiling' for Asian Americans," The Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2013.

Linda Greenhouse, "What's Your Hurry?," The New York Times, June 12, 2013.

Scott Clement, "Wide Majority Opposes Race-Based College Admissions Programs, Post-ABC Poll Finds," The Washington Post, June 11, 2013.

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, "Clarence Thomas and Affirmative Action," The National Law Journal, June 3, 2013.

Eric Rozenman, " ‘Diversity,’ No; Individualism, Yes: America is Founded on Diversity, Not Quotas," The Washington Times, May 27, 2013.

Richard Wolf, "Supreme Court to Make Crucial Rulings on Race," USA Today, May 9, 2013.

Joan Biskupic, "Court May Limit Use of Race in College Admission Decisions," Chicago Tribune, April 28, 2013.

"Unequal Protection," The Economist, April 27, 2013.

The Daily Texan Editorial Board, "Holistic Review Attracts Top Students," The Daily Texan, April 22, 2013.

The Daily Texan Editorial Board, "Facing Fisher, UT Needs a Contigency Plan," The Daily Texan, April 7, 2013.

Joshua Fechter, "Lawmakers Prepare for Ramifications of Fisher Case on UT Admissions," The Daily Texan, April 4, 2013.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, "A Colorblind Constitution: What Abigail Fisher's Affirmative Action Case is Really About," ProPublica, March 18, 2013.

David Leonhardt, "The Liberals Against Affirmative Action," The New York Times, March 9, 2013.

Matthew M. Chingos, "Are Minority Students Harmed by Affirmative Action," Brookings Institute Brown Center Chalkboard, March 7, 2013.

Krissah Thompson, "Edward Blum defies odds in getting cases to Supreme Court," The Washington Post, February 26, 2013.

Dawinder S. Sidhu, "A Critical Look at the 'Critical Mass' Argument," The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 18, 2013.

Yvette D. Clarke, "State of Equality and Justice in America: Another Side of the Debate on Affirmative Action," The Washington Post, January 25, 2013.

Gail Heriot, "The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action," National Affairs, Winter 2013.

Joan Biskupic, "Special Report: Behind U.S. Race Cases, a Little-Known Recruiter," Reuters, December 4, 2012.

Cindy Casares, "Fisher v. University of Texas: Have We Reached Critical Mass," Texas Observer, November 8, 2012.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, "Why Not an Income-Based Affirmative Action?," The Washington Post, November 8, 2012.

Ethan Bronner, "Asian-Americans in the Argument," The New York Times, November 1, 2012.

Reeve Hamilton, "UT Case Could Force Another Look at Top Ten Percent," The Texas Tribune, October 26, 2012.

Lino Graglia, "Race Based College Admissions a Bad Idea," The Austin American-Statesman, October 14, 2012.

David Leonhardt, "Rethinking Affirmative Action," The New York Times, October 13, 2012.

Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., "The Unraveling of Affirmative Action," The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2012.

Jason L. Riley, "Roberts and the Left," The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2012.

Adam Liptak, "Justices Weigh Race as Factor at Universities, The New York Times, October 10, 2012.

Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, "Supreme Court Grills UT, Plaintiff On Use of Race in Admissions," October 10, 2012.

Seth Cline, "Sharp Questioning by Supreme Court Justices in Affirmative Action Case, "US News & World Report," October 10, 2012.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, "A Liberal Critique of Racial Preferences, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2012.

Bill Powers, "An Admissions Policy That Prizes Diversity," The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2012. 

Ben Wolfgang, "High Court to Again Consider Racial Quotas," The Washington Times, October 9, 2012.

Lee C. Bollinger and Claude M. Steele, "A High-Stakes Battle For Higher Education," The Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2012.

Lana Guinier and Penda D. Hair, "UT History Matters in Affirmative Action Case," The Root, October 8, 2012.

Mike Tolson, "Supreme Court to Take Up UT Admission Case," Houston Chronicle, October 7, 2012.

Robert Barnes, "Supreme Court Receives Outpouring of Conflicting Views on Affirmative Action," The Washington Post, October 7, 2012.

Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, "High Court to Hear Argument's on UT's Consideration of Race in Admissions," The Austin American-Statesman, October 6, 2012.

Lincoln Kaplan, "Colleges Value Diversity, but Will the Court?," The New York Times, October 6, 2012.

Lino A. Graglia, "Guest Column: Race Has No Place in College Admissions," The Texas Tribune, October 5, 2012.

Megan Strickland, "UT Works to Diversify Enrollment in Face of Legal Battle," The Daily Texan, October 5, 2012.

Martha L. Minow and Robert C. Post, "Why Race Matters in School Admissions," The Washington Post, October 5, 2012.

Ben Wieder, "Affirmative Action Gets a Hearing," Stateline, October 5, 2012.

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