Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Justices: State can set racial policies

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions despite one justice's impassioned dissent that accused the court of wanting to wish away racial inequality.

The justices said in a 6-2 ruling that Michigan voters had the right to change their state constitution in 2006 to prohibit public colleges and universities from taking account of race in admissions decisions. The justices said that a lower federal court was wrong to set aside the change as discriminatory.

The decision bolstered similar voter-approved initiatives banning affirmative action in education in California and Washington state. A few other states have adopted laws or issued executive orders to bar race-conscious admissions policies.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said nothing in the Constitution or the court's prior cases gives judges the authority to undermine the election results.

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision tramples on the rights of minorities, even though the amendment was adopted democratically. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sided with Sotomayor.

Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case, presumably because she worked on it at an earlier stage while serving in the Justice Department.

In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race among many factors in college admissions in a case from Michigan. Three years later, Michigan voters changed the state constitution to outlaw any consideration of race.

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