Scalia channels US top court colleague Thomas in race remarks

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Supreme Court Divided Over College Affirmative Action

WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (Reuters) - When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday questioned whether some blacks and Hispanics are academically ready for the University of Texas at Austin, he drew quick criticism from civil rights advocates.

SEE ALSO: Officer testifies in his own defense at Freddie Gray trial

An opponent of affirmative action known for his blunt rhetoric, Scalia might also have been channeling the one justice on the bench who said nothing on Wednesday: Clarence Thomas, the court's only black member.

During the oral arguments over race-based student admissions policies, Scalia said "there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans," and some minorities might be better suited to "less advanced" or "slower track" schools.

Thomas, a fellow conservative, has long argued that such programs hurt minorities, including in a 2013 opinion the last time the justices took up the University of Texas case. Thomas wrote that blacks and Hispanics admitted under the university's program that considers race among other characteristics are "far less prepared than their white and Asian classmates."

See photos from the Abigail Fisher case:

9 PHOTOS
Abigail Fisher Affirmative action cases
See Gallery
Scalia channels US top court colleague Thomas in race remarks
Abigail Fisher, who challenged the use of race in college admissions, joined by lawyer Edward Blum, right, speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, following oral arguments in the Supreme Court in a case that could cut back on or even eliminate affirmative action in higher education. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: Attorney Bert Rein (L), speaks to the media while standing with plaintiff Abigail Noel Fisher (R), after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in her caseon October 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. The high court heard oral arguments on Fisher V. University of Texas at Austin and are tasked with ruling on whether the university's consideration of race in admissions is constitutional. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
University of Texas at Austin President Gregory L. Fenves speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, following oral arguments in the Supreme Court in a case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, that could cut back on or even eliminate affirmative action in higher education. Second from right is attorney Gregory Garre who argued on behalf of the university. The case revolves around Abigail Fisher, who challenged the use of race in college admissions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite).
Abigail Fisher, who challenged the use of race in college admissions, walks with lawyers Edward Blum, left, and Bert Rein, rear, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, following oral arguments in the Supreme Court in a case that could cut back on or even eliminate affirmative action in higher education. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2012 file photo, Abigail Fisher, the Texan involved in the University of Texas affirmative action case, accompanied by her attorney Bert Rein, talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Consideration of race in college admissions is again in line of fire at the Supreme Court Wednesday, for the second time in three years, in the case of a white Texas woman who was rejected for admission at the University of Texas. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Abigail Fisher, second from right, who sued the University of Texas when she was not offered a spot at the university's flagship Austin campus in 2008, with Edward Blum, second from left, of the Project on Fair Representation, and parents Richard and Rosalie Fisher, speaks at a news conference in Washington, Monday, June 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in higher education will have "no impact" on the University of Texas' admissions policy, school president Bill Powers said Monday, noting UT will continue to use race as a factor in some cases. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Abigail Fisher, who challenged the use of race in college admissions, listens as her lawyer Bert Rein, center, speaks with reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, following oral arguments in the Supreme Court in a case that could cut back on or even eliminate affirmative action in higher education. At far right is attorney Edward Blum. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: Plaintiff Abigail Noel Fisher speaks to the media after U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in her case on October 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. The high court heard oral arguments on Fisher V. University of Texas at Austin and are tasked with ruling on whether the university's consideration of race in admissions is constitutional. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

He said some minorities would be better off at "less selective colleges where they would have been more evenly matched."

"Setting aside the damage wreaked upon the self-confidence of these overmatched students, there is no evidence that they learn more at the university than they would have learned at other schools for which they were better prepared. Indeed, they may learn less," Thomas wrote.

Thomas joined the court in 1991. He has not asked a question from the bench since February 2006.

Scalia's remarks reflected arguments made in some of the court papers backing Abigail Fisher, the white applicant who sued the university when denied entry.

SEE ALSO: Major nation moves to ban Donald Trump

University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot wrote in one brief that "the nation now has fewer African-American physicians, scientists and engineers than it would have had using race-neutral methods" because of the minority student drop-out rate in some demanding science programs.

Most University of Texas freshmen enter through a program guaranteeing admission to the top 10 percent of high school graduating classes. The university's supplemental admissions policy, targeted in the lawsuit, looks beyond grades to a range of factors including race.

Greg Garre, the university's lawyer, countered Scalia by saying students admitted through the supplemental program "fare better" over time than those entering through the "top 10" policy.

"And, frankly," Garre said, "I don't think the solution to the problems with student body diversity can be to set up a system in which not only are minorities going to separate schools, they're going to inferior schools."

(Reporting by Joan Biskupic and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

See more affirmative action cases:

14 PHOTOS
Affirmative Action cases, protests
See Gallery
Scalia channels US top court colleague Thomas in race remarks
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Students protest in support of affirmative action, outside the Supreme Court during the hearing of 'Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action' on October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. The case revolves around affirmative action and whether or not states have the right to ban schools from using race as a consideration in school admissions. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: A woman protests in support of affirmative action, outside the Supreme Court during the hearing of 'Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action' on October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. The case revolves around affirmative action and whether or not states have the right to ban schools from using race as a consideration in school admissions. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Abigail Fisher, who sued the University of Texas when she was not offered a spot at the university's flagship Austin campus in 2008, stands at a news conference at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Monday, June 24, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in higher education will have "no impact" on the University of Texas' admissions policy, school president Bill Powers said Monday, noting UT will continue to use race as a factor in some cases. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) speaks at a press conference with Jennifer Gratz, CEO of XIV Foundation, the day before going before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of 'Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action,' on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. 'Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action' centers around affirmative action in higher education and whether or not a state has the constitutional right to ban college admissions from giving 'preferential treatment' to potential students based on race during the admissions process. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger stating that states have the right to consider race in the admissions process as part of an 'individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file' - whether or not the state's right to consider race is an obligation is what is at stake. In 2006 the voters of Michigan passed an amendment by 58% banning racial considerations in a college admissions process, which the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is now fighting. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: People wait in line to enter the U.S. Supreme Court on October 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court is scheduled to hear arguments on Fisher V. University of Texas at Austin, and are tasked with ruling on whether the university's consideration of race in admissions is constitutional. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: Travis Ballie holds a sign that reads (Diversity Works) in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court is scheduled to hear arguments on Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, and are tasked with ruling on whether the university's consideration of race in admissions is constitutional. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Students hoping for a repeal of California's Proposition 209 hold signs as they protest outside of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 13, 2012 in San Francisco, California. A Federal appeals court will hear arguments in a lawsuit that wants to overturn Proposition 209, a voter approved measure that prohibits affirmative action at state universities. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jheanelle Wilkins of New Castle, Del., right, and Neo Moneri of Beltsville, Md., participate in a rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, supporting the University of Texas.. The Supreme Court is taking up a challenge to a University of Texas program that considers race in some college admissions. The case could produce new limits on affirmative action at universities, or roll it back entirely. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
University of Michigan student Ebrie Benton, left, demonstrates outside the Federal courthouse, Wednesday, March 7, 2012, in Cincinnati, where the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was hearing oral arguments in their review of their ruling last summer that Proposal 2, the ban on affirmative action in Michigan, is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Students demonstrate outside the Federal Courthouse, Wednesday, March 7, 2012, in Cincinnati, where the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was hearing oral arguments in their review of their ruling last summer that Proposal 2, the ban on affirmative action in Michigan, is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
In this photo from April 6, 2012, protesters and students stage a sit in protest at the Sproul Hall Student Services Office at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to revisit the thorny issue of affirmative action less than a decade after it endorsed the use of race as a factor in college admissions. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2012, file photo, demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a panel heard oral arguments in San Francisco in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 209, which barred racial, ethnic or gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting. As the Supreme Court revisits the use of race in college admissions in October 2012, critics of affirmative action are hopeful the justices are poised to roll back the practice. A new report out Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 offers a big reason for their optimism: evidence the nine states where leading public universities don't use affirmative action have succeeded in bringing diversity to their campuses through race-neutral means. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Demonstrator Maricruz Lopez, right, protests outside of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a panel heard oral arguments in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. More than 15 years after California banned affirmative action, a federal appeals court on Monday heard a legal challenge to the ban on considering race in public college admissions. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 209, which barred racial, ethnic or gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


More from AOL.com:
Jeb Bush: Trump is 'the other version' of Barack Obama
New report reveals states fail to sufficiently fund tobacco prevention
Teen diagnosed with cancer decides to face death straight on

Read Full Story

People are Reading