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Professor Lisa McElroy Discusses Historical Importance of Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case in National Law Journal

October 16, 2012

In a National Law Journal article, Professor Lisa McElroy described the historical and doctrinal significance of U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas.

Fisher involves the University of Texas’s affirmative action program which considers race among other factors when evaluating candidates for admission.

On Oct. 10, McElroy attended the arguments in the case seated among Mrs. Cecelia Marshall, wife for 38 years to Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice on the court; Heman Duplechan, adolescent grandson of Heman Sweatt, the African-American man whose 1950 desegregation case inspired the same result in Brown v. Board of Education four years later; and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, the last case establishing the constitutionality of affirmative action.

McElroy speculated that perhaps these leaders in social progress were present to make a statement, “one about the Court's power and its duty to respect the doctrine of stare decisis; one about the efforts of generations of civil rights advocates like Thurgood Marshall and Heman Sweatt and, yes, Sandra Day O'Connor to make education available and learning enhanced for all; one about offering opportunity to many for whose parents and grandparents those same opportunities had been denied.”

McElroy argued that the day had not only doctrinal but historical significance as Fisher could ultimately result in a reversal of affirmative action precedent. Thus, like her esteemed co-spectators, McElroy claimed she was there so that, in the event the court finds affirmative action unconstitutional, she might be able to recount the moments which led to an aberration in 21st century social progress.