Supreme Court justices appeared divided Wednesday about the future of a program at the University of Texas that takes race into consideration as one factor of admissions.
The hearing, which was at times tense and went over the originally allotted one hour time frame, revealed some of the same fissures that bothered the justices when the case was heard for the first time in 2012. The three liberal justices on the bench appeared largely supportive of the plan. The conservatives, led with passionate questions from Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia were at times sharply critical of arguments made by a lawyer for the University.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could be a key swing vote in the highly anticipated case, suggested at one point the case should be sent back to a lower court to give the school an opportunity to present more evidence about the plan. Kennedy lamented that even though the court sent the case back to the lower court three years ago it felt like, "we're just arguing the same case." Later in the arguments, however, Kennedy seemed to pull back a bit from the idea that a remand might be necessary.
Supporters of affirmative action in higher education are fearful that the court might issue a broad ruling in the case that will curtail a public university's ability to consider race in order to produce a more diverse student body.
Read more: Supreme Court divided on affirmative action