Supreme Court 2016
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Perhaps one of the most relevant cases that the Supreme Court considered this year was Fisher v. University of Texas. It was not universally discussed like Obergefell v. Hodges of 2015, but it has specific meaning to Kennesaw Mountain’s student body. Fischer’s case was brought about following Abigail Noel Fischer and Rachel Multer Michalewicz’s applications to the University of Texas at Austin. Both girls were denied acceptance to the university, and both felt that this decision had been unfairly influenced by their being white. Feeling that the affirmative action policy was violating her Fourteenth Amendment rights, specifically the Equal Protection Clause, Fischer took the issue to court. The district court ruled the university’s policy constitutional, finding that it met legal precedent. This decision was affirmed by a circuit panel and was heard by the court in 2013. Following more judicial review by lower courts, the arguments were heard again by the nation’s highest court, and the Supreme Court ruled the university’s policy fair. With Justice Scalia having passed away in February and Kagan having recused herself because of her prior involvement in the case, the decision was made 4-3. The effects of this decision will be felt by those applying to colleges throughout the United States. While most universities have a holistic review process, race is a factor that is increasingly taken into account.
Another significant case heard by the court this year was Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The argument, again, dealt with Texas. The issue was Texas’s limiting of abortion access to women through stricter provisions on abortion clinics. The case, considered by many experts to be the most influential abortion rights cases in over 20 years, was decided by the Supreme Court 5-3 against the state of Texas. In the immediate, this decision allows abortion clinics throughout Texas to remain open and accessible to the public. Long-term effects will include national repercussions, as many state legislatures have made similar efforts (these efforts now being ruled unconstitutional).
One of the most publicized events of the court, along with Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, was the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. His nomination has been refused by Senate republicans, a group that will not have a hearing on the Democratically-nominated judge. Garland’s nomination has been before the Senate, awaiting consideration, for over 250 days. This far surpasses the previous record for time between nomination and decision surrounding a Supreme Court Justice, 125 days of Louis Brandeis. In addition to being a startling reminder of partisan hostility, Garland’s inability to be named to the court is a commentary on the value of qualifications. Garland graduated from Harvard as an undergraduate student and earned his Juris Doctor there. None of this, or Garland’s experience as a judge on the D.C. circuit court, is affecting the Senate’s decision to essentially ignore Obama’s nomination. This evidence suggests a more politicized Supreme Court is ahead of us, the impact of which will be unprecedented.