Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Schuette v. BAMN

Michigan voters adopted Proposal 2, now Art. I, §26, of the State Constitution, which, as relevant here, prohibits the use of race-based preferences as part of the admissions process for state universities;  JUSTICE KENNEDY, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE ALITO, concluded that there is no authority in the Federal Constitution or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit to the voters the determination whether racial prefer­ences may be considered in governmental decisions, in particular with respect to school admissions.  This case is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Here, the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible when certain conditions are met is not being challenged. Rather, the question concerns whether, and in what manner, voters in the States may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences. Where States have prohibited race-conscious admissions policies, universities have responded by experimenting “with a wide variety of alternative approaches.” Grutter, supra, at 342. The decision by Michigan voters reflects the ongoing national dialogue about such practices.
Seattle’s broad language, however, went well beyond the analysis needed to resolve the case. Seizing upon the statement in Justice Harlan’s concurrence in Hunter that the procedural change in that case had “the clear purpose of making it more difficult for certain ra­cial and religious minorities to achieve legislation that is in their in­terest,” 385 U. S., at 395, the Seattle Court established a new and far­reaching rationale: where a government policy “inures primarily to the benefit of the minority” and “minorities . . . consider” the policy to be “ ‘in their interest,’ ” then any state action that “places effective decisionmaking authority over” that policy “at a different level of government” is subject to strict scrutiny. 458 U. S., at 472, 474. To the extent Seattle is read to require the Court to determine and declare which political policies serve the “interest” of a group de­fined in racial terms, that rationale was unnecessary to the decision in Seattle; it has no support in precedent; and it raises serious equal protection concerns. In cautioning against “impermissible racial ste­reotypes,” this Court has rejected the assumption that all individuals of the same race think alike, see Shaw v. Reno, 509 U. S. 630, 647, but that proposition would be a necessary beginning point were the Seattle formulation to control. And if it were deemed necessary to probe how some races define their own interest in political matters, still another beginning point would be to define individuals according to race. Such a venture would be undertaken with no clear legal standards or accepted sources to guide judicial decision. It would al­so result in, or impose a high risk of, inquiries and categories de­pendent upon demeaning stereotypes, classifications of questionable constitutionality on their own terms. Assuming these steps could be taken, the court would next be required to determine the policy realms in which groups defined by race had a political interest. That undertaking, again without guidance from accepted legal standards, would risk the creation of incentives for those who support or oppose certain policies to cast the debate in terms of racial advantage or dis­advantage. Adoption of the Seattle formulation could affect any number of laws or decisions, involving, e.g., tax policy or housing sub­sidies. And racial division would be validated, not discouraged.
Here there was no infliction of a specific injury of the kind at issue in Mulkey and Hunter and in the history of the Seattle schools, and there is no precedent for extending these cases to restrict the right of Michigan voters to determine that race-based preferences granted by state entities should be ended.
Unlike the injuries in Mulkey, Hunter, and Seattle, the question here is not how to address or prevent injury caused on account of race but whether voters may determine whether a policy of race-based preferences should be continued. By approving Proposal 2 and there­by adding §26 to their State Constitution, Michigan voters exercised their privilege to enact laws as a basic exercise of their democratic power, bypassing public officials they deemed not responsive to their concerns about a policy of granting race-based preferences. The mandate for segregated schools, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483, and scores of other examples teach that individual liberty has constitutional protection. But this Nation’s constitutional system also embraces the right of citizens to speak and debate and learn and then, as a matter of political will, to act through a lawful electoral process, as Michigan voters have done here. These precepts are not inconsistent with the well-established principle that when hurt or in­jury is inflicted on racial minorities by the encouragement or com­mand of laws or other state action, the Constitution requires redress by the courts. Such circumstances were present in Mulkey, Hunter, and Seattle, but they are not present here.
JUSTICE SCALIA, joined by JUSTICE THOMAS, agreed that §26 rightly stands, though not because it passes muster under the political­ process doctrine. It likely does not, but the cases establishing that doctrine should be overruled. They are patently atextual, unadmin­istrable, and contrary to this Court’s traditional equal protection ju­risprudence. The question here, as in every case in which neutral state action is said to deny equal protection on account of race, is whether the challenged action reflects a racially discriminatory pur­pose. It plainly does not.
JUSTICE BREYER agreed that the amendment is consistent with the Equal Protection Clause, but for different reasons. First, this case addresses the amendment only as it applies to, and forbids, race-­conscious admissions programs that consider race solely in order to obtain the educational benefits of a diverse student body. Second, the Constitution permits, but does not require, the use of the kind of race-conscious programs now barred by the Michigan Constitution. It foresees the ballot box, not the courts, as the normal instrument for resolving debates about the merits of these programs.
KENNEDY, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a concurring opinion. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS, J., joined. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. KAGAN, J., took no part in the considera­tion or decision of the case (U.S.S.Ct., 22.04.2014, Schuette v. BAMN, Docket 12-682, J. Kennedy).

« Affirmative action » : examinée usuellement sous l’angle de la Clause d’égale protection de la Constitution fédérale : l’état du Michigan a modifié sa constitution par un vote populaire, selon lequel le processus d’admission aux universités de l’état ne peut plus comprendre le critère de la préférence liée à la race. Respectant la primauté de la volonté populaire d’un état en cette matière, la Cour Suprême fédérale refuse d’annuler la modification de la constitution précitée. La Cour précise que cette affaire ne porte ni sur la constitutionalité ni sur le mérite des politiques d’admission aux hautes écoles basées en partie sur le critère de la race. En effet, en l’espèce, la question litigieuse n’est pas de savoir si la prise en considération de la race dans le processus d’admission peut être admis en présence de certaines conditions. La question présentée par cette affaire est celle de savoir si et de quelles manières les personnes admises à voter dans les états peuvent choisir d’interdire la considération de la race dans le processus d’admission aux hautes écoles. La Cour mentionne ensuite une ancienne jurisprudence dite « Seattle » et précise à son sujet qu’à l’époque où elle a été rendue, il n’était pas nécessaire qu’elle prévoie la compétence des Tribunaux s’agissant de déterminer et déclarer quelles sont les politiques publiques qui servent les intérêts d’un groupe défini par sa race. Il n’appartient pas davantage aux Tribunaux de se prononcer aujourd’hui à ce sujet, pour ne pas créer des catégories stéréotypées de personnes selon leur race, évitant ainsi une violation de la Clause d’égale protection prévue par la Constitution fédérale. Est rejetée ainsi la présomption que toutes les personnes d’une même race pensent de la même manière. Par ailleurs, dans de précédentes jurisprudences (Seattle déjà citée, où les jurisprudences Mulkey ou Hunter), des dommages spécifiques résultaient de décisions gouvernementales, ce qui n’est pas le cas dans la présente affaire qui fixe les conditions d’admission aux universités de l’état du Michigan. Est encore une fois rappelé le principe bien établi selon lequel si un dommage est occasionné à des minorités raciales du fait de la loi ou de l’action de l’état, la Constitution fédérale impose aux Tribunaux d’intervenir pour effacer dit dommage. En l’espèce, la modification de la constitution de l’état du Michigan est approuvée en application du principe constitutionnel du « political process doctrine ». Selon les Juges Scalia et Thomas, la modification de la constitution de l’état du Michigan doit en effet être approuvée, mais pour des motifs différents : selon ces deux Juges, la question que pose cette affaire, comme dans toutes les affaires où une action de l’état neutre en elle-même est supposée nier une protection égale pour des motifs liés à la race, est celle de déterminer si l’action de l’état reflète un but de discrimination raciale. Tel n’est pas le cas en l’espèce.

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