Recap: Court cases you missed over winter break

Natalie Sullivan

Over the winter break, two court cases related to the University continued.

Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas II

The Supreme Court heard a second round of arguments for the case, which could determine the use of affirmative action at the University and the rest of the nation, on Dec. 9.

Fisher, a rejected UT applicant who is white, claims she was not accepted to UT in 2008 on the basis of her race. The case was heard in the Supreme Court in 2012, where it was then sent back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. When the Fifth Circuit ruled that Fisher failed to make her case, Fisher appealed to the Supreme Court again in 2015.

The Court’s role this time around is to determine if the Fifth Circuit’s previous ruling, which endorsed the University’s use of race in undergraduate admissions, should be upheld.

At the hearing, the Court heard arguments from both sides about the case.

Fisher’s attorney, Bert Rein, said he thinks the University needs to be clearer on its use of race as a factor in admissions. Fisher said she hopes the case will end racial preferences at the University.

Representatives for UT argued that even if race had not been considered, Fisher would still not have been admitted into the University, and said the top 10 percent plan, which automatically admits students in the top 10 percent of their high school class to a Texas public university, provides necessary diversity and educational benefits.

UT President Gregory Fenves said UT’s use of race in admissions is constitutional and within the University’s best interests.

The Court is expected to reach a decision on the case by the end of June.

Hall v. McRaven

A state district judge dismissed a lawsuit by UT System Regent Wallace Hall on Dec. 15 that involved Hall’s attempt to access confidential admissions records. Hall said he will appeal the decision, which means the case will continue. 

Hall filed a lawsuit against UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven in June, after McRaven denied his request for documents in the Kroll report, which detailed cases where former UT President William Powers Jr. influenced the admissions process. McRaven cited Family Educational Rights and Privacy Acts laws as a reason for denying Hall’s request. 

“Where federal or state law makes confidential information that relates to a specific individual, whether it is private health information or an individual student’s protected information, it is our duty to ensure that we strictly comply with those confidentiality requirements,” McRaven said in a June statement. 

According to court documents, Judge Scott Jenkins did not give a written reason for dismissing the case. Because of the dismissal, Hall cannot file another suit on the controversy.

In a statement released Dec. 15, McRaven said he did not think Hall should have access to confidential records but expected Hall to appeal the dismissal.