WSJ Supreme Court reporter gives background on previous rulings in SCOTUS affirmative action cases

Jess Bravin, Supreme Court reporter at the Wall Street Journal, joins Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast to discuss two cases regarding race-based college admissions that are set to start oral arguments on Monday. Bravin discusses previous rulings and precedents.

Video transcript

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Let's get to the big affirmative action cases coming up. This has been an issue that has been confounding the Court for decades now, going back to when, Bakke in the late 70s? And the previous rulings by the Court have not resolved it. Are we going to get any closer with these two cases coming up, University of North Carolina and Harvard University?

JESS BRAVIN: I would say the previous cases did resolve it. They came up with a framework that all the universities have, at least the selective ones, where they have to make some decisions about who gets in and who does not, have pretty much adopted. In 1978 a single justice opinion became the rule. No rigid quotas but some kind of vague use of race as a plus factor for the compelling interest of educational diversity was OK. And that is pretty much what selective colleges up and down the line have done ever since.

That was reaffirmed in 2003 with a pair of cases from the University of Michigan, which rejected a 50-point bonus for minority applicants but said another plus factor program was OK. Reaffirmed again in 2013 and 2016 with a pair of cases from the University of Texas. So what has changed? It's not the practices of these universities, it's the membership of the Court. And this membership of the court obviously wants to take another look at this case because the issue is basically the same as the Court has considered in all these prior cases.