Roberts' Reasoning Missing from Initial LA Times Run of AP Story on Race Ruling

In a landmark 5-4 case today, the U.S. Supreme Court found that two school systems had improperly used race as a consideration in managing the public school districts. Web sites for many newspapers have carried Associated Press coverage of the ruling, and the later the revision of the AP report, the more information tends to be packed in them.

As of 1:15 a.m. Eastern when I started this post*, the Los Angeles Times front page linked to an AP story published just before 11 a.m. Eastern. But in that version of the AP story, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, is not quoted at all. Yet a similar AP story (perhaps the same story but with fewer paragraphs edited out) was published just minutes later in the Washington Examiner.

Notice from the excerpts shown below that the Examiner's AP report, published at 11:12 a.m. EDT contains a line from Roberts in paragraph four (shown below, my emphasis). Yet Roberts is missing from the LA Times run of the AP story published just 14 minutes earlier at 10:58 EDT. Curiously, Justice Kennedy's milder concurring opinion was quoted (also shown in bold below, my emphasis).

From the Examiner:

Supreme Court Rejects School Race Plans

Jun 28, 2007 11:12 AM (2 hrs 5 mins ago)

by Mark Sherman, AP

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected diversity plans in two major school districts that take race into account in assigning students but left the door open for using race in limited circumstances.

The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricts how public school systems may attain racial diversity.

The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. The court's four liberal justices dissented.

The districts "failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals," Roberts said.

Yet Justice Anthony Kennedy would not go as far as the other four conservative justices, saying in a concurring opinion that race may be a component of school plans designed to achieve diversity.

To the extent that Roberts' opinion could be interpreted to foreclose the use of race in any circumstance, Kennedy said, "I disagree with that reasoning."

He agreed with Roberts that the plans in Louisville and Seattle violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissent joined by the other liberals on the court, said Roberts' opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

"To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown," Breyer said.

The two school systems in Thursday's decisions employ slightly different methods of taking students' race into account when determining which school they will attend.

From the L.A. Times:

Court limits diversity plans of public schools
From the Associated Press
7:58 AM PDT, June 28, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court today rejected school diversity plans that take account of students' race in two major public school districts but left the door open for using race in limited circumstances.

The decision in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle could imperil similar plans in hundreds of districts nationwide, and it further restricts how public school systems may attain racial diversity.

The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. The court's four liberal justices dissented.

Yet Justice Anthony Kennedy would not go as far as the other four conservative justices, saying in a concurring opinion that race may be a component of school district plans designed to achieve diversity.

To the extent that Roberts' opinion can be interpreted to foreclose the use of race in any circumstance, Kennedy said, "I disagree with that reasoning."

He agreed with Roberts that the plans in Louisville and Seattle violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

The two school systems in today's decisions employ slightly different methods of taking students' race into account when determining which school they will attend.

Federal appeals courts had upheld both plans after some parents sued. The Bush administration the parents' side, arguing that racial diversity is a noble goal but can be sought only through race-neutral means.

Louisville's schools spent 25 years under a court order to eliminate the effects of state-sponsored segregation. After a federal judge freed the Jefferson County, Ky., school board, which encompasses Louisville, from his supervision, the board decided to keep much of the court-ordered plan in place to prevent schools from re-segregating.

The lawyer for the Louisville system called the plan a success story that enjoys broad community support, including among parents of white and black students.

*To its credit, the L.A. Times now links to a 1:03 p.m. EDT report from staffers David G. Savage and Joel Havemann, quoting a Roberts zinger in the second graf:

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said for the 5-4 majority.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters