On the first day of the U.S. Supreme Court's final week of its current term, it sent an affirmative action case to a lower court and decided to take a case involving abortion protestors in its next term. The decisions in two cases involving gay marriage and a Voting Rights Act case will be announced later this week.
The Court did not decide if The University of Texas at Austin could use race as a factor in deciding which students could be admitted. Instead, the case, Fischer vs. University of Texas at Austin, was sent back to a lower court for further review.
The Court implied that diversity was a worthy goal for a university, but said that the university must use the least restrictive means possible, or be "narrowly tailored," to achieve that goal. Since the lower court did not apply this standard, the ruling orders the lower court to review its decision in the case.
"The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the only dissenter in the 7-1 decision, arguing that the lower court's decision upholding race-based admissions policies was correct. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion arguing that he would rule the policy unconstitutional.
The decision leaves open the possibility that the Supreme Court will take another look at the constitutionality of affirmative action in the future.
The Court also decided Monday to hear a case in its next term regarding abortion protestors. The case involves a Massachusetts law that creates a "buffer zone" requiring that abortion protestors maintain a certain distance from an abortion clinic.
A lower court upheld the law in McCullen vs. Coakley. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal from a pro-life group.
The Court has yet to announce its decision in the two highly anticipated gay marriage cases. Court watchers expect the announcement to come on the court's final day, which is expected to be either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of this week.
Hollingsworth vs. Perry looks at whether California's amendment to its state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.
U.S. vs. Windsor challenges the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that says marriage will be defined as the union of one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law.
Voting Rights Act
In another highly anticipated case, the Supreme Court is also yet to decide a case involving the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. The court may decide whether it is appropriate for the law to still place stricter requirements upon the Southern states than are placed upon the rest of the states.