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Overruling and Judicial Restraint

Charles Fried, the Beneficial Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has these thoughts:

Here is a prediction: the Court in its school race-based assignment cases will take a bite of Grutter, just as in Wisconsin RLF it took a bite out of McConnell. And the usual suspects –e.g. The New York Times editorial page—will once again point to what they will call the false fealty to stare decisis sworn by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Such accusations will be either ignorant or hypocritical. Grutter was paired with Gratz, which struck down the Michigan undergraduate plan of racial preferences because it was mechanical and numerical rather than individualized and sensitive as in Grutter. Those who are addicted to racial preferences celebrated Grutter and ignored Gratz, no doubt encouraged by the elevated rhetoric in Grutter. But this Term’s school cases are more like Gratz than they are like Grutter. Truth be told, Grutter was more like Gratz too, only the Court chose to ignore the clear findings of fact that Michigan Law School was just as addicted to numbers and percentages as the undergraduate program, but due to the smaller number of applicants (and better legal advice) could accomplish its goals without leaving the paper trail that a much larger admissions process made inevitable. So what we have is an incoherent pair of precedents and, as is the case with a contradictory proposition, such a contradiction entails anything, everything or nothing.