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John Paul Stevens on Education

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Ford 1975)

  
 


Race-based college preference ok only if individualized

Grutter v. Bollinger upheld the University of Michigan Law School's consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions. In her majority opinion, Justice O`Connor said that the law school used a "highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file." Race, she said, was not used in a "mechanical way." Therefore, the university's program was consistent with the requirement of "individualized consideration" set in 1978's Bakke case, O`Connor said. However, the court ruled that the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions system, which awarded 20 points to black, Hispanic, and American-Indian applicants, was "non-individualized, mechanical," and thus unconstitutional. [Dissenting opinion held that any race-based balancing is unconstitutional; two dissenters suggested a 25-year time limit which should now be expired.]

Opinions:Majority: O`Connor, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, & Breyer; partial dissent: Scalia & Thomas; dissent: Rehnquist & Kennedy

Source: InfoPlease.com on 2003 SCOTUS docket #02-241 , Jun 23, 2003

College affirmative action ok to achieve racial diversity

When the University of Michigan Law School denied admission to Barbara Grutter, a female Michigan resident with a 3.8 GPA, she alleged that the Law School had discriminated against her on the basis of race. The University argued that there was a compelling state interest to ensure a "critical mass" of students from minority groups, particularly African Americans and Hispanics. The Supreme Court upheld the University's admissions policy.

The Court's ruling held that public universities are now allowed to use race as a plus factor in determining whether a student should be admitted. Prior to this case, affirmative action had to correct the effects of historic discrimination. (Majority opinion written by O'Connor, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer).

The dissent argued the Law School's "critical mass" admissions policy was an attempt to achieve an unconstitutional type of racial balancing. (Dissent by Rehnquist, joined by Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas).

Source: Wikipedia on 2003 SCOTUS 5-4 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger , Jun 23, 1986

Parochial school vouchers violate church-state separation.

Justice Stevens joined the dissent on Zelman v. Simmons-Harris on Jun 27, 2002:

The public schools in many of the poorer parts of Cleveland were deemed failures, and the legislature enacted the Pilot Project Scholarship Program to provide tuition vouchers for up to $2,250 a year to attend participating public or private schools. The parents chose where to enroll their children. In the 1999-2000 school year, 82% of the participating private schools had a religious affiliation.

HELD: Delivered by Rehnquist, joined by Scalia, Kennedy

The Ohio program does not violate the Establishment Clause, because it passed a 5-part Private Choice Test developed for this case:
  1. the program must have a valid secular purpose
  2. aid must go to parents and not to the schools
  3. a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered
  4. the program must be neutral with respect to religion, and
  5. there must be adequate nonreligious options.
Rehnquist wrote that "the incidental advancement of a religious mission is reasonably attributable to the individual aid recipients not the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits."

CONCURRENCE: Concurrence by O'Connor and Thomas

Voucher programs like the one in this case are essential because "failing urban public schools disproportionately affect minority children most in need of educational opportunity." Vouchers give families an opportunity to enroll their children in more effective private schools. Otherwise, "the core purposes of the 14th Amendment" would be frustrated.

DISSENT: Dissent by Souter, joined by Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer

"The voluntary character of parochial education over an education in the public school system is irrelevant to the question whether the government's choice to pay for religious indoctrination is constitutionally permissible." Religious instruction and secular education cannot be separated and this violates the Establishment Clause.
Source: Supreme Court case 02-ZELMAN argued on Feb 20, 2002

Ok to deny scholarships to divinity students.

Justice Stevens joined the Court's decision on Locke v. Davey on Feb 25, 2004:

Voting 7-2, the court upholds the provisions of Washington state's Promise Scholarship program, which offers taxpayer-funded scholarships to low-income college students enrolled in secular studies.

HELD: Delivered by Rehnquist, joined by Stevens, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer

The justices rule in Locke v. Davey that states are not violating the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom if they choose not to subsidize students studying for the ministry. The decision upholds the constitutionality of the scholarship program which excluded students pursuing a "degree in theology."

DISSENT: Dissent by Scalia, joined by Thomas

When the State withholds a benefit from some individuals solely on the basis of religion, it violates the Free Exercise Clause no less than if it had imposed a special tax. That is precisely what the State of Washington has done here. It has created a generally available public benefit, whose receipt is conditioned only on academic performance, income, and attendance at an accredited school. It has then carved out a solitary course of study for exclusion: theology.
Source: Supreme Court case 04-LOCKE argued on Dec 2, 2003

Disallow taxpayer funding for parochial school materials.

Justice Stevens joined the dissent on MITCHELL v. HELMS on Jun 28, 2000:

Chapter 2 of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act channels federal funds for educational materials such as library media and computer software, to public and private schools to implement “secular, neutral, and nonideological” programs. About 30% of Chapter 2 funds spent in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, are allocated for private schools, most of which are religiously affiliated. Respondents filed suit alleging that Chapter 2 violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

Held:

(Thomas, joined by Rehnquist, Scalia, and Kennedy)
Chapter 2, as applied in Jefferson Parish, is not a law respecting an establishment of religion simply because many of the private schools receiving Chapter 2 aid in the parish are religiously affiliated.

Concurrence:

(O’Connor, joined by Breyer)
The expansive scope of the plurality’s rule is troubling. First, the plurality’s treatment of neutrality comes close to assigning that factor singular importance in the future adjudication of Establishment Clause challenges to government school-aid programs. Second, the plurality’s approval of actual diversion of government aid to religious indoctrination is in tension with our precedents and is unnecessary to decide this case. [Within those limits], I concur in the judgment.

Dissent:

(Souter, joined by Stevens and Ginsburg)
The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause bars the use of public funds for religious aid. The plurality is candid in pointing out the extent of actual diversion of Chapter 2 aid to religious use in the case before us, and equally candid in saying it does not matter. To the plurality there is nothing wrong with aiding a school’s religious mission; the only question is whether religious teaching obtains its tax support under a formally evenhanded criterion of distribution. The plurality equates a refusal to aid religious schools with hostility to religion. I respectfully dissent.
Source: Supreme Court case 98-1648 argued on Dec 1, 1999

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Other Justices on Education: John Paul Stevens on other issues:
Samuel Alito
Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
John Roberts
Sonia Sotomayor
Clarence Thomas

Former Justices:
Antonin Scalia
David Souter
Sandra Day O'Connor
William Rehnquist
John Paul Stevens

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Page last updated: Mar 15, 2016