Affirmative action is still necessary in some cases and a remedy that has been recognized again and again by the courts. That’s essentially what Sonia Sotomayor told the Senate Judiciary Committee, responding to a question by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.).
Kohl offered up a multi-part question, asking her view of affirmative action and its value and whether it is more necessary for education or employment issues. Sotomayor, taking notes, began her response by saying that affirmative action was “a legislative determination.”
She then noted that the 14th Amendment requires equal protection under law for all. The courts have recognized, she said, that at some times race can be considered to protect some rights.
Sotomayor recalled the 2003 Supreme Court decision on admissions policies at the University of Michigan, which upheld an affirmative action program, though with some restrictions.
The court upheld the affirmative action policy at the university’s law school because an individual student’s race was weighed as one factor in deciding who was admitted. However, the justices struck down the school’s undergraduate admissions policy because all minority students received bonus points that nearly ensured their admission.
In that decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said that affirmative action — narrowly defined — was still needed, although ideally would not be necessary in 25 years. Sotomayor agreed that perhaps affirmative action would not be needed some day. “That’s the hope,” she said.
— Steve Padilla