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Monday, June 24, 2013

Supreme Court Avoids Major Ruling On Affirmative Action

Abigail Fisher, right, who brought the affirmative action case against the University of Texas, is pictured outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Oct. 10, 2012.  (Susan Walsh/AP)

Abigail Fisher, right, who brought the affirmative action case against the University of Texas, is pictured outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Oct. 10, 2012. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The Supreme Court has sent a Texas case on race-based college admissions back to a lower court for another look.

The court’s 7-1 decision Monday leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said a federal appeals court needs to subject the University of Texas admission plan to the highest level of judicial scrutiny.

The compromise ruling throws out the decision by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the Texas admission plan.

Kennedy said the appeals court did not test the Texas plan under the most exacting level of judicial review.

He said such a test is required by the court’s 2003 decision upholding affirmative action in higher education.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the lone dissenter.

Justice Clarence Thomas, alone on the court, said he would have overturned the high court’s 2003 ruling.

Justice Elena Kagan stayed out of the case, presumably because she had some contact with it at an earlier stage when she worked in the Justice Department.

Abigail Fisher, a white Texan, sued the university after she was denied a spot in 2008. She has since received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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