Fisher v. University of Texas Case Brief

Facts of the case

Abigail Fisher, a white female, applied for admission to the University of Texas but was denied. She did not qualify for Texas’ Top Ten Percent Plan, which guarantees admission to the top ten percent of every in-state graduating high school class. For the remaining spots, the university considers many factors, including race. Fisher sued the University and argued that the use of race as a consideration in the admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court held that the University’s admissions process was constitutional, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The case went to the Supreme Court, which held that the appellate court erred by not applying the strict scrutiny standard to the University’s admission policies. The case was remanded, and the appellate court reaffirmed the lower court’s decision by holding that the University of Texas’ use of race as a consideration in the admissions process was sufficiently narrowly tailored to the legitimate interest of promoting educational diversity and therefore satisfied strict scrutiny.


The Court held that therace-conscious admissions program in use at the time of petitioner’s application is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause. A university is in large part defined by those intangible qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness. Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to the Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity. In striking this sensitive balance, public universities, like the States themselves, can serve as laboratories for experimentation. A university must continue to use data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary. It is the university’s ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admissions policies.

  • Advocates: Bert W. Rein for the petitioner Gregory G. Garre for the respondents Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae supporting the respondents
  • Petitioner: Abigail N. Fisher
  • Respondent: University of Texas at Austin, et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: University of Texas
Citation: 570 US 297 (2013)
Granted: Feb 21, 2012
Argued: Oct 10, 2012
Decided: Jun 24, 2013
Fisher v. University of Texas Case Brief