DETROIT – A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the work of one of its three-judge panels and said it would decide the legality of Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions and government hiring.
The decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals erases a July 1 ruling that found the ban to be unconstitutional. It means more than a dozen judges on the court likely will hear the case again, a rare occurrence.
Michigan voters in 2006 passed a law banning the consideration of race in college admissions and government hiring. The law forced the University of Michigan and other public schools to change admission policies.
In striking down the law in July, the three-judge panel said the law treats minorities unfairly and violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the decision was “nutty” and had urged the full court to reopen the case.
“The court made the right decision and we look forward to making the case for equality, fairness and the rule of law,” Schuette said in a statement. “It is absurd to say a ban on racial discrimination, which Proposal 2 enshrined in our constitution, somehow perpetuates racial discrimination. It simply defies common sense.”
Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer who had argued against the ban for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he welcomes a chance to do it again. Arguments are likely to be heard in 2012.
“Proposal 2 is an old-fashioned racial gerrymander that locks out Michigan citizens of color from the political process,” said Rosenbaum, who teaches at the University of Michigan law school.
The Ohio-based appeals court has judges from four states. Fifteen were eligible to vote on whether to reopen the case, although judges David McKeague and Raymond Kethledge recused themselves without a public explanation.
The court did not release a vote, saying only that a majority agreed to a new hearing.