Victor Landa, NewsTaco

The U. S. Supreme Court will be handing down its decisions on two important civil rights cases soon, one possibly as soon as Monday, May 13. Both cases could have a lasting impact in the fight for civil rights that began in the decade of the 50’s and 60’s.

On Monday the Court could decide on Fischer v. University of Texas, in which the Justices are deliberating whether the University of Texas’ manner of attracting minority students is unconstitutional. The University’s main campus, in Autsin, Texas, accepts the top 10% of every high school class then uses race as one factor in attaining a balance of racial and ethnic diversity in its student body. The case was brought by a white student who claimed she was passed up for admission because of her race – implying that her place was given to a less deserving minority. In this case Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself because she served as U. S. solicitor general, so only eight justices will decide the outcome.

The other case is Shelby v Holder, which is expected to be decided in June. In this case the Court will decide whether section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was last updated in 1972 but has been reauthorized several times since, is in violation of the Constitution. The main question, as has been reported, is if the Justices believe that the blatant and vast discrimination that existed in the 1960’s still exists, and whether the states covered by Section 5 continue to be the  most damaging offenders. Section 5 of the VRA requires that certain Jurisdictions (most of them southern states) pre-clear any election related change with the federal government. Opponents of the requirement argue that the discrimination of the past no longer exists and therefore pre-clearance is no longer needed.  Proponents maintain the opposite and emphasize that Section 5 has been successfully used in the very recent past to thwart blatant voter discrimination practices.

In both of these cases the court is evenly divided with Justice Anthony Kennedy seen as the swing vote.

[Photo courtesy c-span]

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