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Supreme Court to reconsider affirmative action in higher education

WASHINGTON — Since the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, conservatives have looked forward to the day when the Supreme Court would take up a new challenge to the use of race-based affirmative action in the nation's colleges and universities.

That day came Tuesday, when the justices said they would hear an appeal from a disappointed white student from Texas who seeks an end to "racial preferences" in the admission process.

The Supreme Court first approved affirmative action in higher education in the Bakke case in 1978. A generation later, in 2003, O'Connor wrote the court's decision reaffirming the practice, saying in a case involving the University of Michigan that colleges and universities could have limited racial preferences in order to achieve diversity on campus. At the time, she suggested that after another 25 years, if racial prejudice continued to wane, such preferences would no longer be defensible.

But the end may come faster. Now that O'Connor has been replaced by Samuel Alito, five justices — a majority — are on record against the use of "racial balancing" by schools. "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Chief Justice John Roberts said five years ago in a decision that prohibited race-based transfer policies in elementary and high schools.

In the new case, Abigail Fisher says she was turned down for admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 because of preferences given minority applicants. A federal appeals court upheld the Texas program.

The justices will not hear arguments in the case until October, weeks before the presidential election. Justice Elena Kagan said she would not participate, apparently because she worked on a Justice Department brief when the case was in a lower court.

Miranda ruling: The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Tuesday that investigators don't have to read Miranda rights to inmates during jailhouse interrogations about crimes unrelated to their current incarceration. Previous court rulings have required Miranda warnings before police interrogations for people who are in custody, which is defined as when a reasonable person would think he cannot end the questioning and leave. "Imprisonment alone is not enough to create a custodial situation within the meaning of Miranda," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court's majority opinion.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Supreme Court to reconsider affirmative action in higher education 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 11:26pm]

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