KBJ Quietly Backtracks on Recusal in Affirmative Action Case

It appears that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has quietly "un-recused" herself from the UNC affirmative action case coming before the Court during its 2022-2023 term. As Dan McLaughlin explained, the case was previously consolidated with a case implicating Harvard in a similar alleged violation:

As I set forth in detail back in February, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has an obligation to recuse herself from the pending case on racial preferences in Harvard admissions because she sat on the Harvard Board of Overseers not only during the events under challenge — which are ongoing — but also during the yearslong defense of the litigation, including at the Supreme Court. Justice Jackson agreed, and testified at her confirmation hearing that she would recuse. But Jackson’s recusal obligation should have extended as well to the consolidated case, for two reasons: because Harvard was engaged in a joint defense of the case with the University of North Carolina (the two cases were consolidated) and because a victory for UNC could redound to the benefit of Harvard in the event that the Court divided 4-4 or reached a fractured outcome in the Harvard case (granting that the two legal standards could end up differing). . .

the Court ordered that the two cases are no longer consolidated and granted a separate hour of argument for each. The order notes, under the Harvard caption, “Justice Jackson took no part in the consideration of this order.” It makes no such notation as to the UNC case. Jackson is, apparently, back in the case.

The upcoming term's rulings on affirmative action will be extremely important as higher education increasingly backslides into considering race in admissions.

Recently, the American Bar Association (ABA) dropped a proposal that would effectively have required racial quotas for law schools to obtain accreditation:

The proposal, first released in May 2021, would have required law schools to submit annual progress reports on minority enrollment to the American Bar Association. Law schools that failed to boost the enrollment of "underrepresented groups" would have been at risk of losing their accreditation.

The proposal underwent three rounds of revisions before finally being withdrawn by the association’s house of delegates, which did not rule out revisiting the proposal at a later date. An early draft had warned that U.S. anti-discrimination laws were "not a justification" for "non-compliance" with the diversity standard, a line that drew criticism from many in the legal community, including from elite universities.

Justice Jackson still has the opportunity to make the ethical decision and recuse herself from the UNC case. No doubt, liberal interests—like those at the ABA pushing racial quotas in law school admissions—will pressure her to stay on the case and rule in their favor.