Affirmative Action in Michigan—Supreme Court Ruling


On April 22, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. In a 6-2 decision, the Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. Constitutional scholar Phil Pucillo discusses the case and its significance.

Philip Pucillo

Philip Pucillo

Pucillo explains that in Michigan and several other states that have voter-passed initiatives, state governments cannot discriminate in favor of or against individuals based on their race. The Court’s ruling is limited to states that have laws such as the one in Michigan.

The Court’s action leads to a question whether the Court might take a similar stance with respect to other state initiatives, such as laws banning same-sex marriages. Pucillo points out that the opinion in Schuette was written by Justice Kennedy. In it, he speaks of the importance of respecting the initiative process. That does not mean, Pucillo cautions, that the Court would automatically accept a law simply because it was enacted by an iniatiative.

Pucillo reiterates that the states have similar laws can be sure that those laws are valid. What will be interesting is whether other states will come forward with similar laws. Pucillo suggests that no more than a half dozen states will attempt to pass such laws.

Philip A. Pucillo is a lecturer at the Michigan State University College of Law. Before becoming a professor of law, he served as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan and as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Washington, D.C. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.