As with many Supreme Court decisions, this case is a fairly narrow holding. The opinion attempted to limit the reach of the decision to the one iteration of one admissions program. Another school may find no aid in this decision due to the disparity of critical facts, as repeatedly highlighted by the majority. One of these facts is the State statutory environment, which places the top ten percent of high school graduates into a State school of their choice, and caps the number of such automatic admissions at seventy five percent for each school. This ten percent rule was not challenged.
In the decision, written by Justice Kennedy, it appears as though the situation for the University of Texas was important. However, the Justice admonished the University, and speaking more broadly, all Universities. Specifically, Justice Kennedy said “The University must continue to use this data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program; to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy; and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary.”
Simply, the program as challenged is Constitutional. There is no guarantee the next one, or even this one, will remain Constitutional.
In all likelihood, this case will not be a significant case going forward. First, Fisher II merely applied the test laid out in Fisher I. No new test was articulated and while lower courts now have guidance, it will more likely be Fisher I which is quoted for the standard. Additionally, the Court was significantly understaffed by Justices in this decision. By the time of the next affirmative action case, the Supreme Court will be different, with Justice Kagan and the Ninth Justice appointed. The addition of these two voices will change how the Court approaches the decision.
Fisher II is important because it upholds affirmative action. As for the legacy of Fisher? Only time will tell.