Claremont Institute

Supreme Court Preview:

Universities, Unions, & Equal Protection


Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin begins at 1:18
Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) begins at 15:57
Evenwel v. Abbott begins at 26:18

In this town hall, Dr. John C. Eastman, Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, previews some of the most significant cases coming before the Court.

In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), the Supreme Court ruled that states can force public-sector employees working in an “agency shop” to pay union dues, even if the employee is not a union member. In its 2015-16 term, the Court will have a chance to reverse that mistaken precedent when it rules in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Rebecca Friedrichs, an Orange Country public school teacher, has joined with several other teachers as well as the Christian Educators’ Association in filing suit against the California Teachers Association (CTA). While CTA claims that it uses the dues at issue for "non-political” activity, the petitioners claim that the union’s collective bargaining with local governments is inherently political and that paying union dues to support political causes the plaintiffs do not support violates their First Amendment rights. The Center filed an amicus brief supporting Ms. Friedrichs earlier this year.

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court will revisit the issue of racial preferences in higher education. In 2013, the Court first heard the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student denied admission to UT Austin. She challenged the constitutionality of the university's use of race as a factor it considered in admissions decisions. Instead of issuing a landmark ruling on the constitutionality of racial preferences in public university admissions, the Court punted, remanding the case to a lower appeals court for another look. Now, Ms. Fisher is back in court, and the justices will again have the opportunity the rule on the university’s use of race in its admissions process. Will the Court do away with racial preferences once and for all—as the Center urges in its amicus brief—or issue another narrow ruling

Evenwel v. Abbott will present the Court with the opportunity to consider the meaning of the “one-man-one-vote” principle. In it’s redistricting plan for state Senate districts, the Texas legislature counted the raw population of each district rather than the eligible voting population. The appellants in this case argue that this unfairly weighs the votes of citizens in districts with lower concentrations of eligible voters more than citizens in districts with higher concentrations. The Center filed an amicus brief in this case last month. The Supreme Court will consider whether the Equal Protection Clause requires states to count eligible voters, rather than total population, in their apportioning of districts.

Dr. Eastman sheds light on all of these cases, discussing how a proper understanding of the Founders’ jurisprudence should guide the Justices in making their decisions.