Alito in Action
The Supreme Court this morning announced that it would hear two, related affirmative action cases next fall, setting up another showdown over the controversial use of race as a factor in determinoing public school assignments. Coming just three years after the Justices reviewed two other affirmative action policies in the school context of schools, and with a key switch in the makeup of the Court in the meantime, the news is as unwelcome to supporters of affirmative action as it is welcome to folks who want to do away with the practice.
Why in the world would the Justices want to revisit this issue if not to change the law and undercut their own 2003 precedent? That's the question folks on both sides of this debate will be asking themselves in the nine months or so between today and the day the Court finally tells us what it thinks about the issue. I suppose optimists among affirmative action supporters might try to convince themselves that the Court merely wants to refine and further clarify its 2003 rulings. But that's like hoping you are in for good news when the IRS calls. No, affirmative action is in big trouble because Sandra Day O'Connor is off the Court and Samuel Alito is on it.
Nothing in Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing or judicial background suggests he is a friend of affirmative action. Nothing suggests that he would vote the same way that O'Connor did when she was faced with similar but not identical race-based issues in the University of Michigan's admission policies. Nothing suggests that he would be unwilling to overturn the Court's 2003 precedent-- to nullify the Court's carefully crafted standards
If you have been waiting for the demise of affirmative action, your time now may be near. If you are have been hoping that affirmative action would last forever, you may soon be very disappointed. And if you think that presidential elections and the impact they have on the makeup of the Supreme Court don't make a practical difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans you have never been more wrong.
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