On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rebuffed a request to reconsider its prior ruling upholding the constitutionality of the admissions program utilized by the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) to assemble a diverse student body. 

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin is the first federal appellate challenge to the use of race in university admissions since the Supreme Courts landmark 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger.  In January 2001, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed that UT Austin’s admissions plan is consistent with Grutter.

Disappointed with this ruling, the unsuccessful applicants who challenged UT Austin’s admissions program filed a petition seeking the “extraordinary” relief of a rehearing by all of the judges on the Fifth Circuit, sitting “en banc.”  LDF and the Black Student Alliance at UT Austin filed a friend-of-the-court brief, urging that the Fifth Circuit to reject this petition, which it did by a majority vote last Friday.  It was unnecessary for the Fifth Circuit to revisit the panel’s decision because it is an entirely proper application of binding Supreme Court authority in Grutter, which provided a workable standard for colleges and universities to select student bodies throughout the nation.