The last week in June is almost always reserved for the handing down of the most controversial opinions by the U.S. Supreme Court. Once again, the High Court saved the "big ones" until just before they left for summer recess.
Washington, D.C. always has a celebration around the 4th of July that is called "A Capitol Fourth." Thousands and thousands of people gather on the Mall in D.C., listen to great music and witness some of the best fireworks in the country. But those of us who watch the High Court know that the fireworks really begin the week before.
The calendar for the Supreme Court always starts the first Monday in October and, for months, the justices hear oral arguments on hundreds of cases. It has become customary for the High Court to wait until almost the last moment to hand down their most controversial decisions. And they did it again this year.
On Monday of last week, the Court vacated and remanded back to the Fifth Circuit (on a 7-1 decision) the case of Fischer v. The University of Texas. The case dealt with affirmative action, where a white woman was refused admittance to the University allegedly because she is white. The Court did not specifically address affirmative action but Justice Clarence Thomas did give us a sense of his position when he wrote in his opinion:
"…diversity can only be the means by which the University obtains educational benefits; it cannot be an end pursued for its own sake. Therefore, the educational benefits allegedly produced by diversity must rise to the level of a compelling state interest in order for the program to survive strict scrutiny."
He also compared affirmative action to segregation when he penned:
"It is also noteworthy that, in our desegregation cases, we rejected arguments that are virtually identical to those advanced by the University today. The University asserts…that the diversity obtained through its discriminatory admissions program prepares its students to become leaders in a diverse society... The segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it provided more leadership opportunities for blacks."
The High Court heard oral arguments on the case in October and it will be awhile before the case comes before them again. It is safe to say that when it does, sparks will fly. And speaking of flying sparks…
In another decision, the High Court ruled, as unconstitutional, a part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In a 5 -4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the law Congress renewed in 2006 relied on 40-year-old data and does not reflect the progress made on race in our country. The law requires that 9 states get permission from the federal government before changing any of their election laws.
The White House immediately put out a statement saying the President was "deeply disappointed" and urged Congress to pass legislation that would rectify the Court's decision.
And finally, the Supreme got it dead wrong on marriage. What a week, what fireworks. Frankly, I prefer the ones on the Mall.