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Two Civil Rights Decisions Close Out Supreme Court's 2008 Term

The Supreme Court’s 2008 Term concluded with opinions in two closely followed civil rights cases, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (Northwest Austin MUD), and Ricci v. DeStefano (Ricci). Both cases were anticipated as presenting possibilities for sweeping constitutional holdings—in Northwest Austin MUD, the invalidation of the Voting Rights Act, and in Ricci, the application of Equal Protection analysis to workplace claims of “reverse” discrimination under Title VII. In fact, neither case produced a constitutional seachange, but instead both were decided on grounds of statutory interpretation, consistent perhaps with Chief Justice Roberts’s articulated preference for a “minimalist” jurisprudential approach. Nonetheless, both cases achieved significant, incremental change—in recognizing the Nation’s significant advances in guaranteeing equal voting rights to all, and in advancing the vision of antidiscrimination employment law as a vehicle for ensuring equal, race-neutral employment opportunities...