College basketball coaches make a cameo appearance at the U.S. Supreme Court this week in support of affirmative action in college admissions when, on Wednesday, the Court hears argument in one of the most-closely watched cases of the term, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
Texas automatically accepts residents who finish in the top ten percent of their high school class and then considers race as one of several factors in admissions for the remainder of the class. Abigail Fisher — a white applicant in 2008 — claims that she would have been accepted but for the consideration of race.
A divided panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her claim, saying that the University’s admissions policy was consistent with the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling involving the University of Michigan Law School and allowed as a means of achieving a critical mass of minority students at the University.
Not surprisingly, a host of organizations and individuals filed friend of the court briefs, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which, as the nation’s oldest public university, wrote in support of Texas at Austin and the overall commitment of public universities to securing racial diversity by the “nuanced consideration of race as one factor among many” in admissions.
Also of note is an amicus brief filed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, along with a who’s who of college basketball coaches participating as individuals (and not on behalf of their respective schools) — including Johnny Dawkins (Stanford), Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Joanne McCallie (Duke), Sue Semrau (Florida State) and Coquese Washington (Penn State). In their words, “Our student-athletes, and all of the students who attend our institutions, receive the best education when they are able to interact with others within a university community that is broadly diverse across its entire scope.”
And following its conference last Friday, Oct. 5, the Court granted petitions for review in seven cases, including a decision out of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involving public records requests by out-of-state residents.
In McBurney v. Young, the Court will consider whether a state can deny nonresidents the same right of access to public records that it affords its own citizens. The circuit courts are split on that issue. The Fourth Circuit in McBurney said yes, upholding a provision of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act that limits disclosure to state residents. The Third Circuit, in contrast, has said no, holding that access to public records is protected by U.S. Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause.
Additional rulings coming out of the Oct. 5 conference are expected on Tuesday. The Court will next entertain petitions for review at conference on Oct. 12.