The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along
with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and thirty other national civil rights
organizations filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative
Action. The case involves a challenge to a 2006 statewide referendum in
Michigan that sought to amend the state constitution to prevent the Michigan colleges
from any consideration of race in college admissions, eliminating the narrowly
tailored race conscious admissions upheld by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and recently reaffirmed
in Fisher v. University of Texas. The
Center submitted briefs on behalf of UNC Law School in Grutter and of UNC-Chapel Hill in Fisher.
Following the passage of the referendum, the NAACP Legal
Defense Fund and other advocates filed a challenge on behalf of students,
faculty, and applicants under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
They argued that the referendum effectively changed the Michigan’s political system
in a discriminatory manner that impeded the ability of African Americans and
other protected classes to enact legislation in their interest.
While the trial court upheld the amendment, the Sixth
Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding the referendum and amendment were
unconstitutional. An en banc review of the entire circuit court affirmed the
ruling by a narrowly divided 8-7 vote. The
state of Michigan appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is set to hear
arguments in the case on October 15.
In the brief joined by the Center, amici argue that heightened scrutiny under the 14th
amendment is the appropriate standard or review for race-based referendums that
change a state’s constitution. This “political restructuring doctrine” was
affirmed in Washington v. Seattle School
District No. 1 (1982) when the Court struck down a statewide neighborhood
school policy even though the Seattle district voluntarily sought to bus to
promote racial diversity. The political restructuring doctrine prohibits the
use of one aspect of governmental power to foreclose other means of democratic
influence to a particular protected minority group.
The amici brief
writes separately to emphasize two points, that “heightened judicial scrutiny
under the political restructuring doctrine is particularly appropriate for
race-focused constitutional amendments passed by ballot initiative,” and also the
particular importance of the doctrine in the “high-stakes context of
Read the amicus brief.
Read the Center’s Fisher v. University of Texas brief
Posted by Peter Hull Gilbert on Tue. September 24, 2013 3:38 PM
Amicus Curiae, Education, Race Discrimination