No Big Surprise: A Review of the Seattle Schools Case

By Harry J.F. Korrell
October 01, 2007
On June 28, 2006, the Supreme Court issued its decision (along with several concurring and dissenting opinions) in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. This case has received widespread attention, and has been called one of the most significant equal protection cases in decades. This article provides a summary of the factual background and the complex procedural history of the Seattle litigation that led to the decision. It also examines some of the criticism of the Court’s decision to review the case and the result. Contrary to the hyperbole from some quarters, a close review of the underlying Ninth Circuit opinion, the developing rift among courts (and among the judges of those courts) about the legality of racial balancing programs, and the holding and reasoning of the Parents decision, reveals (1) that review by the Supreme Court was necessary to resolve a split among lower courts on an issue of national importance; and (2) that the decision is a straight-forward application of long-established Equal Protection Clause jurisprudence. The decision to grant certiorari and the outcome are not surprising in light of the Court’s earlier Equal Protection Clause cases....