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High court largely sidesteps affirmative action case in 7-1 ruling

Associated Press

One of the four biggest cases of the current Supreme Court term deals with the constitutionality of affirmative action in a case called Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The ruling came down this morning, and in a 7-1 decision, the high court majority sent the case back to the lower court to be heard again. More soon.

First Update: Here's Scotusblog's plain-English summary of what the Fischer case was all about.

Second Update: The entirely of the ruling is online here (pdf). Note, as Supreme Court decisions go, this one is pretty short.

Third Update: The lone dissent was written by Justice Ginsburg, and there were concurring opinions from Justices Scalia and Thomas. There are only eight justices in total because Kagan recused herself from the case.

Fourth Update: For those who've followed this case closely, the key was seeing whether the high court was prepared to overturn its previous rulings defending the legality of affirmative action. This morning, they did not -- the precedent remains intact. However, it appears the court majority supports "narrow tailoring," which would restrict the existing law on affirmative action, and these justices have clearly left the door open for future challenges.

Fifth Update: By embracing "narrow tailoring" of affirmative action, the court has signaled tougher scrutiny of these programs, which Bloomberg News characterized as a "limited victory for opponents of racial preferences."

Sixth Update: Thomas, as is his wont, was prepared to go much further than his colleagues, pushing to end affirmative action policies altogether, describing them as "racial discrimination." On page 15 of the ruling, note that Thomas even appears to compare affirmative-action proponents to segregationists.

Seventh Update: A helpful write-up from NBC News' Pete Williams and Erin McClam.