Conservatives generally veer strongly away from the concept of ethnic quotas, and for good reason. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination. To be denied a promotion, raise, or an opportunity simply because the color of one's skin or the accent of one's speech cannot be tolerated.
In the educational arena this battle has been fought numerous times. The 1978 Supreme Court’s decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke concluded that “the goal of achieving a diverse student body is sufficiently compelling to justify consideration of race in admissions decisions . . .” More recently, the Bush Administration legally challenged the University of Michigan's admissions policy that not only took race into consideration, but also weigh it more than other factors. In a split decision ruling, the Supreme Court validated UofM's admissions policy, though it did strike down certain elements.
Essentially it works like this: schools are allowed to take race into consideration, as long as race is only one of several factors. I see this as a fair-minded and common-sense approach to a difficult issue. All other things being relatively equal, race can be "a" determining factor in graduate school admissions, but never "the" determining factor.
The Supreme Court is the highest legal body in the United States. Though not a 'representative body' such a Congress, the individuals serving on the Court have been commissioned to uphold, cherish, and protect the legal interests of the entire nation. A diverse nation calls for a diverse Court. Our nation has already broke ground with the appointment of women and African-Americans. While race (or gender) should never be the sole factor in such appointments, to refuse to allow it to be a significant factor is to ignore the very diversity which forms the American heartbeat.
For example, the Hispanic growth rate is almost three times more than the overall population growth rate. Most studies suggest that there are over 44 million individuals of Hispanic origin living in America. Placing an Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court isn't designed to protect the interests of Hispanic-Americans. Rather, it is meant to protect the interests of America itself, and to ensure that our leaders remain our equals. Though caution must be taken and boundaries must be set, a commitment to diversity protects our nation from the quiet tyranny of neglect.