Thursday, June 28, 2007

Supreme Court on Laws promoting Desegregation and Integration: Dead Letter

Supreme Court strikes down school integration policies

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court today declared unconstitutional the use of racial guidelines to integrate public schools, saying that neither white nor black children should be turned away from a school in pursuit of a "desired racial balance."

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said for the 5-4 majority.

A pair of rulings struck down voluntary integration policies adopted by school boards in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., because some students were excluded based on race. Roberts said the court's decision was faithful to the Constitution's "equal protection" clause because it required officials to treat all people the same without regard to race.

The decision casts doubt on integration guidelines that have been adopted by school districts around the country. Though mandatory busing programs have been abandoned as a way to desegregate, many districts have adopted guidelines in some schools, including magnet programs, that limit the percentage of black or white students who may attend.

Parents in Seattle and Louisville challenged the guidelines because a son or daughter had been turned away from the school nearest their home. They lost in the lower courts but won today.

The four dissenters accused their conservative colleagues of turning their backs on the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and its promise of integrating schools.

"This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret," Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in an impassioned dissent he read in the courtroom. "The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown."

Breyer said the majority was wrong to treat integration and segregation as if they were the same simply because race plays a role in the assigning of students.

The full impact of today's ruling may turn on how school lawyers interpret a concurring opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. He cast the deciding fifth vote with Roberts, but he also faulted his opinion for its "all-too-unyielding insistence that race cannot be a factor" in a school district's policies. In addition to Roberts and Kennedy, the majority was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

School officials cannot "ignore the problem of de facto re-segregation in schooling," Kennedy said, and they may "devise race-conscious measures to address the problem in a general way."

One option would be to locate new schools in areas that are between black and white neighborhoods and thereby draw a diverse group of students. Another approach might be to have voluntary transfer policies that allow students to move from segregated to more integrated schools. Such programs were used in Los Angeles and other cities when mandatory busing programs were ended.

In delivering his opinion, the chief justice said the court was not reconsidering its recent rulings that have upheld affirmative action in colleges and universities. Roberts noted the importance of diversity in "the unique context of higher education," and he quoted approvingly from the ruling four years ago that allowed colleges to give special consideration to minority students based on an individual assessment of their records.

Some civil rights advocates feared the school integration cases could open the door to the court striking down affirmative action in colleges and universities, but today's opinion suggests otherwise.

Two other major decisions were handed down on the last day of the court's 2006-07 term:

-- Overturning a nearly 100-year-old antitrust precedent, the court ruled that some price-setting agreements between manufacturers and retailers are legal. The 5-4 ruling, a victory for business, was also sought by the Bush administration.

The majority opinion was written by Kennedy with the concurrence of Roberts and Alito, Scalia and Thomas.

-- The court blocked the execution of a convicted Texas killer on grounds of mental illness. Scott Louis Panetti shot his in-laws to death 15 years ago while his wife and young daughter watched.

His lawyers said he knows what he did but believes he is on death row because he preaches the word of God. The court ruled 5-4 not to put Panetti to death, with Kennedy joining the four justices who often vote liberal — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and John Paul Stephens.

Original article posted here.


Ducky's here said...

...."and so it goes".

Now the question is whether or not there will be a backlash.

I'm quite certain this will really hurt Republican candidates but I wonder if the Democratic party has much left besides Democratic Leadership Council stooges.

Days of Rage coming in 2008.

Da Weaz said...

I don't think it will matter one shard.