Scalia channels US top court colleague Thomas in race remarks

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:

3 PHOTOS
Abigail Fisher Affirmative action cases
See Gallery
Scalia channels US top court colleague Thomas in race remarks
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)
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

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:

7 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)
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE


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

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.