Legal Studies – Crime

Christopher Edley, Jr. has been a noted professor at Harvard Law School since 1981. He is co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. Among his current activities, he is serving a six-year term as a member of the bipartisan U. S. Civil Rights Commission (Staff & Associates Bios, 2004). Edley's article, Color and the Court, is clearly about the present state of civil rights in the United States, and the impact a new presidential administration will have on future changes.

The article does not encompass strictly an issue of legal reform or dispute resolution, but offers a single individual's view of racial diversity and the Supreme Court's impact on it. Article Review Edley directs his argument by focusing on minority dispute losses of recent Supreme Court decisions and the use of race as a standard for justification. He fuels several of his conclusions by rationalizing the conservative opinions of the higher Court, noting potential retirees, and the forthcoming presidential election. The article pre-dates the 2000 presidential election between George W.

Bush and Albert Gore, giving readers four years to consider the impact that result has had on the Supreme Court and other claims Edley made. Edley's article provides few actual Court decisions to build his case. Instead, he bargains for sensationalism with statements such as "the likely impact of the next few Supreme Court appointments on civil rights and racial justice is momentous. " The article continues this banter with similar descriptions: "compelling government interest", "government-sponsored racial discrimination", "growing trend toward racial isolation", and "minority saber-rattling".

Edley builds on his theme of inequality by directing attention to the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment (the "principal tool for racial and ethnic justice"), the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and dissecting the Supreme Court justices into a racially conservative ruling majority. Although he concentrates his efforts on the power of the Supreme Court and the effect the presidency has on the Court, Edley presents a formidable argument when noting other constitutional developments that may occur. He cites three issues that can have broad-ranging considerations: 1.

Promoting diversity in education as a compelling government interest for strict scrutiny purposes 2. Narrowing the grounds for race-conscious remedies, limiting them to specific instances of intentional discrimination 3. Deciding Court cases in education, employment, healthcare, and criminal justice where minority plaintiffs will offer overwhelming evidence of disparate harsh effects from some policy Edley continues this campaign with his analogy of a Bush led "close-the-door concurring opinion" Supreme Court in contrast to a Gore "keep-the-opportunity-door-ajar" Court.

He implies that Gore would remove the conservative watch of the Court's "old guard" by retiring Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor. Analysis The article points out valid concerns with the present state of civil rights in the country; however, fails to substantiate any unlawful reactions resulting from Supreme Court decisions. The Fourteenth Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act are mentioned; however, no facts are offered to substantiate laws that have been racially abused. The theories related in the article have existed for generations and will undoubtedly remain for decades longer.

Edley flounders by relying on the unyielding conservativeness of the senior justices of the Court. He fails to take into account that outside influences may sway the voting tide regardless of who sits in the White House. The article also fails to forecast the present Supreme Court as divided when considering cases on racial diversity or affirmative action (Associated Press, 2003a). If the article is correct, the presidency, therefore the Supreme Court is subject to the ever present "popular vote" in America.

By ruling in favor of the University of Michigan in June 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the right of colleges and universities to consider race as a factor in the admissions process. Two months later, in a Gallup Poll Youth Survey, a majority of American teens (aged 13 to 17) said they favor affirmative action programs for minorities and women (Hanway, 2003). The presidency will have to consider this future voting class in upcoming elections. The article also fails to consider that some of the conservative justices may simply change their minds.

Most of the justices voted not to hear a recent dispute concerning awarding government contracts to minorities. Justice Antonin Scalia accused fellow Supreme Court justices of going soft on affirmative action saying: "the court is abandoning its own strict rules for when government may treat one race differently from another" (Associated Press, 2003b). Conclusion The article is concentrated on the present state of civil rights in the United States, and the impact presidential administrations and the Supreme Court have on the direction of racial progress.

Edley championed a "get-out-the-vote message" and lost. The article is dated (the election was won by Bush); however, Edley made several strong inferences of racial diversity that may still occur under the right circumstances.


Associated Press. (2003a, December 4). New affirmative action issues expose split U. S. Supreme Court. Black Issues in Higher Education 20(21), 19. Retrieved January 15, 2004, from EBSCO host database. Associated Press. (2003b, November 17). Scalia lashes out at Supreme Court judges. Community Commonwire. Retrieved January 15, 2004, from EBSCO host database.