Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black female American to serve in the role, will be allowed to participate in a case that will determine the fate of affirmative action in the country, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Jackson previously decided to stay out of a case involving Harvard University's admissions policy because she was a member of the school's Board of Overseers. She concluded her six-year term with the board this spring, reporters say.
Now that case merged with a similar lawsuit involving the University of North Carolina, the case will be split in two, and the new Justice will hear arguments and vote on the one involving UNC, according to a court order issued on Friday, July 22.
Federal law requires justices to recuse themselves from cases where their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned," including connections to any party involved in the lawsuit. Several justices, including John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Jackson have Harvard degrees, but Jackson is the only one to have a recent role with the private university, as AP noted.
Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) are the plaintiffs in both cases, who infamously accused Harvard in 2014 of discriminating against Asian-American applicants during the admissions process. The organization successfully petitioned for the cases to consolidate, but the Friday order reversed it.
SFFA has also asked the court to reconsider previous rulings on race-based college admissions. Experts believe the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will jeopardize the decades-old policy, which allowed diversity to be a factor when assessing college applications.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear both cases during the fall term.