U.S. Supreme Court

Photo by KUT News

The U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the issue of race in college admissions

Today, the court agreed to hear a challenge to the affirmative action policy at the University of Texas. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, who argues she was denied admission to the university because of UT's race-conscious policy.

It's the second time the court has taken up the issue in the past 10 years. In 2003, the court upheld the University of Michigan's use of race in assessing law school applicants by a vote of 5-4. But today's court is more conservative. Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the majority opinion in the Michigan case. She's since been replaced by Justice Samuel Alito – who tends to vote with the court’s more conservative bloc.

Yale law professor Peter Schuck tells KUT News a number of factors outside the court’s University of Michigan ruling could be in play, as each state university system differs. Here in Texas, Schuck points to the effect the UT system’s “top 10 percent” rule could play.

It’s back to the drawing board for a San Antonio court that reworked Texas’ most recent redistricting plan.

This morning, the Supreme Court offered an opinion in a lawsuit brought by Gov. Rick Perry, representing the State of Texas, against members of a three-person San Antonio court. The San Antonio justices had rejected the Texas Legislature’s 2011 overhaul of congressional districts, drafting their own map of new districts.

At issue was Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Enforced in southern states including Texas, the act requires the Department of Justice to “preclear” election changes with the Department of Justice to ensure changes don’t adversely affect the ability of ethnic minorities to elect the candidates of their choice. The San Antonio court felt that with 2010 census numbers confirming explosive growth in Texas’ Hispanic and Latino population, the new map drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011 wouldn’t meet preclearance standards.

Photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:350z33

The Associated Press reports the Supreme Court has dismissed the map of Texas electoral districts redrawn by a court in San Antonio. The districts were reworked by the San Antonio court amid complaints an earlier map drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011 created gerrymandered districts and didn’t allow minority voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.

Who didn't see this coming?

The Supreme Court has added a case challenging the constitutionality of the provision of last year's health overhaul requiring nearly every American to have health insurance beginning in the year 2014 to the list of cases it will hear this term.

Photo of Humberto Leal, courtesy the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Updated 4:40 pm: The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has voted to deny a request for reprieve from death row inmate Humberto Leal.

From the AP:

The panel voted 4-1 Tuesday to deny a reprieve request for 38-year-old Humberto. The same board refused by a 5-0 vote to commute Leal's death sentence to life in prison.

Leal's attorney issued a statement on the denial this afternoon. 

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles’ recommendation against a reprieve for Humberto Leal ignores the views of the U.S. government and Solicitor General, former diplomats, military leaders, judges and prosecutors, and organizations representing Americans abroad who believe that Mr. Leal’s execution would threaten the safety of Americans overseas and undermine the international interests of the United States. 

Earlier: State lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to stop the execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal. The 38-year-old is scheduled to be killed on Thursday in Huntsville for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old San Antonio girl in 1994.

As KUT reported last week, Leal’s lawyers are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis that Leal’s execution would violate an international treaty.

That’s because Leal was not made aware of his right to contact the Mexican consulate when he was arrested, a right guaranteed by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. His lawyers argue he may never have been convicted, or sentenced to death, if he had access to legal help.

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