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Could SCOTUS ruling actually endanger affirmative action policies?

The Supreme Court's decision on Monday to send its big affirmative action case back to the lower courts has been hailed by civil rights groups as a victory for the policy's advocates. But some legal experts are not so sure.

The case, called Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin,involved a white woman who sued the school after it rejected her in 2008, arguing that the school’s affirmative action policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In a 7-1 decision, the Court found that in this case, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals improperly applied the "strict scrutiny" test, and gave undo deference to the "good faith" of the University of Texas when it ruled in the school's favor.

Strict scrutiny is the highest possible standard that the courts apply when reviewing laws that either discriminate on the basis of race, gender or some other characteristic, or directly interfere with a constitutional right. In order to determine whether a law stands up to strict scrutiny, the court will ask whether the government has a compelling interest for creating the policy, and whether the law is “narrowly tailored” to that particular interest. Here, the Court found that the 5th Circuit had not adequately applied that test.

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