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Medical education

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (S.Ct.)

758 F.3d 633 (5th Cir. 2014), 133 S.Ct. 2411 (2013)

Also under Civil Rights

Outcome of first Supreme Court decision:   Highly favorable


The principal issue in this case is the extent to which the University of Texas can consider the race of applicants in determining qualifications for admission.

AMA interest

In order to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes, the AMA supports improved diversity in medical education.

Case summary

Abigail Fisher, who was white, applied to but was rejected from the University of Texas undergraduate college.  She then sued the university, asserting that the school preferred African-American students over whites and that she would have been accepted if the racial preferences had not been in place.  In 2013, the Supreme Court held that the University of Texas could use racial preferences in its admission decisions, but only under limited circumstances.  It remanded the case for determination of whether those limited circumstances applied in this case.

On remand, the lower federal courts found that the University of Texas had applied the specified limited circumstances which the Supreme Court had elucidated.  Thus, the denial of Ms. Fischer’s application was justified.  The Supreme Court has again granted certiorari, to review this finding.

AMA involvement

Prior to the first Fisher ruling, the AMA, along with the American Association of Medical Colleges and numerous other organizations, filed an amicus brief, which argued, in support of the University of Texas, that racial diversity is a vital component of a successful medical education and that medical school admission officers should be allowed to consider applicants’ race in order to achieve the schools’ educational goals.  The same organizations are likely to file a second amicus brief in the present appeal, probably along much the same lines as were discussed in the earlier amicus brief.

First United States Supreme Court brief

Second United States Supreme Court brief

Kashmiri v. University of California

156 Cal. App. 4th 809 (Cal. App. 2007)

Outcome:    Very favorable

The issue in this case was whether the University of California (UC) breached a contract with its students by raising fees after it explicitly promised students otherwise.

AMA interest
The AMA supports financial accessibility of medical education to qualified candidates.

Case summary
This class action, filed by and on behalf of UC professional (including medical) students, alleged that UC breached a contractual obligation, under which it promised that professional students’ tuition fees would not be increased during their enrollment.  The trial court entered judgment in favor of the students, and the University appealed.  The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment and ordered that UC pay the costs of appeal.  The California Supreme Court denied UC's petition for review.

Litigation Center involvement
The Litigation Center filed an amicus brief in support of the students in the Court of Appeal.  The brief emphasized the crushing financial burdens entailed by a medical education and the disincentives aspiring medical students face if they are required to assume not only the tuition and other expenses determined as of the time they entered school but also subsequent increases. 

California Court of Appeal brief