- Court: United States Supreme Court
- Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
- Date Filed: April 22, 2014
- Case #: 12-682
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Roberts, C.J., and Alito, J., joined. Roberts, C.J., filed a concurring opinion. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Thomas, J., joined. Breyer, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined. Kagan, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
- Full Text Opinion
In the wake of the Supreme Courts' decisions in Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, and Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, two cases out of Michigan which helped to clarify the extent to which state schools were permitted to consider race in admissions decisions, the people of Michigan amended their constitution to proscribe entirely any discrimination or preferential treatment "on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
Petitioner, along with several others, challenged the amendment in federal district court. That court granted summary judgment to Michigan, upholding the amendment. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the summary judgment, holding that the amendment violated the principles set out in Washington v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, 458 U.S. 457.
A plurality of the Supreme Court agreed to reverse the Court of Appeals decision and uphold the Michigan amendment. Justice Kennedy's opinion narrows the scope of the Seattle principles to those cases where a specific injury has been inflicted; there is no injury in this case. He states that federalism requires that the federal government allow states to experiment and "choose[e] which path to follow." Only when they step too far and violate individuals' rights should they be checked. Justice Scalia's opinion would overrule Seattle altogether and simply hold that a "a law directing state actors to provide equal protection is facially neutral and cannot offend the Constitution. Finally, Justice Breyer's opinion asserts that Seattle does not apply to this case at all.