The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a major case on affirmative action in higher education, adding another potential blockbuster to a docket already studded with them.
The court’s decision in the new case holds the potential to undo an accommodation reached in the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger: that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to boost minority enrollment but could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in Grutter, said the accommodation was meant to last 25 years.
The court’s membership has changed since 2003, most notably for these purposes with the appointment of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who replaced Justice O’Connor in 2006. Justice Alito has voted with the court’s more conservative justices in decisions hostile to the use of racial classifications by the government.