Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is unhappy again – not with a substantive ruling by the court, but with a decision by the majority to decline to hear a particular case. Last year, Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, dissented from a decision by the majority – one in a long line – not to… Continue reading The Supreme Court Declines to Resolve Yet Another Lower Court Conflict
By: Lawrence M. Friedman In his dissenting opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, Justice Alito argues that the Court indulged the university’s “plea for deference” in the application of strict scrutiny to its race-based affirmative action program. And he’s probably right, too: the scrutiny the majority applied in Fisher seems less strict than the scrutiny the Court historically has given race-based classifications. But this isn’t to say that the result Alito would have reached—striking down the university’s plan—is also right. For he fails to appreciate that, just as equal protection doctrine protects only individuals who are similarly situated, strict scrutiny applies in the same way only in similarly situated cases. In other words, context matters—and context explains why higher education affirmative action programs may survive judicial review where the governmental use of race in other contexts would not.