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The U.S. Supreme Court has elected not to interfere in a race-based admissions policy at one of the country’s most prestigious military academies, at least for the time being.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, justices “on Friday rejected a conservative student group’s efforts to force the U.S Military Academy at West Point to cease its race-based admissions policies, saying that the case is still ‘underdeveloped’ in lower court proceedings.”
In an order, the nation’s highest court wrote: “The application for writ of injunction pending appeal presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is denied. The record before this Court is underdeveloped, and this order should not be construed as expressing any view on the merits of the constitutional question.”
The petition to prohibit West Point from factoring race into student applications was submitted by Students For Fair Admissions, following their 6-3 triumph before the justices in a separate case last year. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action did not align with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Examiner noted.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration replied to a request from SFFA, urging the Supreme Court not to halt affirmative action policies at the school.
“For more than forty years, our Nation’s military leaders have determined that a diverse Army officer corps is a national-security imperative and that achieving that diversity requires limited consideration of race in selecting those who join the Army as cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote on behalf of the Justice Department.
SFFA, led by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, made the request to the justices last Friday, seeking to prevent West Point from considering race in its admissions process, arguing that military academies should adhere to the same standard established by the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision against Harvard University’s race-based practices.
The request was made as the application deadline for West Point’s class of 2028 was approaching on January 31. SFFA contended that the justices should resolve the dispute before that deadline. The decision announced on Friday implies that the school will be allowed to consider race to some extent for the upcoming class.
Blum’s organization pursued legal action in federal court in New York in September, seeking a district court judge’s order to temporarily prohibit the school from considering race while the litigation proceeded.
However, U.S. District Judge Philip Halpern rejected this request, stating that what SFFA was essentially seeking was to compel military academies to fundamentally alter and restructure an admissions process that had been in use for many years. He also noted that the student group failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success, which is a crucial element for securing temporary relief, the Examiner noted.
When the Supreme Court invalidated affirmative action policies at private and state institutions in a 6-3 decision last summer, it included a footnote in the opinion indicating that military academies were not addressed in the case. This footnote played a role in the government’s argument for why the justices should refrain from ruling against race-based practices at military academies.
“No military academy is a party to these cases, however, and none of the courts below addressed the propriety of race-based admissions systems in that context. This opinion also does not address the issue, in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present,” said the footnote.
In June, the high court’s ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions stemmed from lawsuits filed against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
“The high court sided with the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, which argued that the universities’ admissions processes discriminate against white and Asian American applicants,” Axios reported.