Abigail Fisher filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 15. She’s one of the white applicants denied admission by the University of Texas at Austin who filed suit alleging race discrimination. In her cert petition, Fisher challenges a 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a district court decision in UT’s favor. She frames the question for the high court: “Whether this Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment including Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), permit the University of Texas at Austin’s use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.” Bert Rein, a partner in Washington, D.C.’s Wiley Rein, represents Fisher. He notes that his client expects to graduate from another university in a year, as did a previous co-plaintiff who has not sought a hearing with the high court. Fisher’s motive, Rein says, “is one of principle.” Patricia "Patti" Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at UT, did not immediately return a call for comment. In an emailed statement, UT President William Powers writes, “The UT legal team is reviewing the Petition for Certiorari and we will continue our very important defense of this case. The University of Texas at Austin is firmly committed to a holistic admissions policy that is consistent with the rulings of the US Supreme Court, which has recognized the educational benefits of a diverse student body. . . . With the Top 10 percent rule driving most of our admissions, it is vital for us to weigh a multitude of factors when making admissions decisions about the balance of students who will make up each entering class. We must have the flexibility to consider each applicant’s unique experiences and background so we can provide the best environment in which to train the students who will be our future leaders.” Rein says UT must file its response by Oct. 19, and he expects the justices may make a decision on whether to accept the case before the end of that month.
-- Miriam Rozen