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U-M says admissions cases should be heard together, if at all

University officials involved with the admissions lawsuits see a recent petition to have the second of two cases against the University heard by the U.S. Supreme Court as a logical move, should the high court take up the issue of affirmative action. But the University still plans to send a message that the court does not need to rule on either case.

Center for Individual Rights (CIR) lawyers representing the plaintiffs in both lawsuits against the University asked the Supreme Court last week to bypass the U.S. 6th Circuit Court and hear the case of Gratz v. Bollinger, et al. The lawsuit against the University’s undergraduate admissions process has yet to be ruled on by the circuit court, which leaves standing a U-M victory in a lower court.

A second 6th Circuit Court suit involving the Law School (Grutter v. Bollinger, et al) was decided in the University’s favor May 14. In August, CIR appealed to the Supreme Court on behalf of Grutter.

“We think, if the court decides to hear the case, it should hear both at the same time,” says Marvin Krislov, vice president and general counsel. “The central legal issue—whether diversity is a compelling interest—is the same, and the evidence supporting the educational benefit of diversity is complementary.”

Krislov says the University stands by its original position, however, that the Bakke case, which has been the precedent for affirmative action since 1978, “is still good law.” In the Bakke ruling, the Supreme Court said diversity is a compelling government interest justifying the use of race as a factor in admissions as long as quotas are not used.

When it files a response to the original CIR petition to the Supreme Court, the University plans to tell the justices that Bakke should remain the benchmark for affirmative action.

“We believe the 6th Circuit in the Law School case, and Judge [Patrick] Duggan in the undergraduate lawsuit, correctly ruled that our current admissions policies are fair and constitutional,” Krislov says. “Whether these cases are ultimately decided by the 6th Circuit or the Supreme Court, we’re confident we will prevail.”

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