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Updated 2:00 PM June 16, 2003



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Krislov: Supreme Court decision only days away

The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to rule before the end of June on two lawsuits challenging the University’s admissions policies. The decision is likely to come without any advance warning, says Vice President and General Counsel Marvin Krislov.

(File photo by Bob Kalmbach, U-M Photo Services)

Decisions are typically announced on a weekday at 10 a.m., Krislov says. The justices announce their decision in the court, and may read from parts of their opinions.

The University will post the decision as quickly as possible on its main website, along with a link to the text of the court’s opinion. During the day the website will be expanded to include statements by University leaders, a short legal analysis of the court’s ruling, and links to reactions by individuals and organizations across the country.

A special edition of the University Record also will be published, and President Mary Sue Coleman will send an e-mail message to all faculty, staff and students.

Krislov says there are a number of possible outcomes, but the court will address two essential questions: Is the pursuit of a diverse student body a “compelling interest” and therefore may race be a consideration in the admissions process? And, if diversity is a compelling interest, are the University’s policies “narrowly tailored” to meet this objective?

“The enormity of this decision is exciting, but also somewhat frightening,” says Krislov. “I was at my child’s school recently and I was thinking that the kids there are going to be very much affected by whatever decision comes out.

“The stakes are just so high—not just for education, but also for producing the future leaders of the country. Places like the University of Michigan produce many individuals who will go on to be leaders and influential in this country. We want to keep those opportunities open to a broad range of people.”

Anthony Collings, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, teaches a course in Supreme Court news coverage and served as CNN’s Supreme Court reporter for nine years.

He says it is possible the court’s decision may be complicated, with different combinations of justices voting to uphold or reverse various parts of the lower court rulings. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Law School’s admissions policy, and the federal district court upheld the University’s current undergraduate admissions policy on summary judgment (without a trial).

Collings says the fastest way to understand the court’s decision is to read the “syllabus,” which is the first few pages of the ruling. The syllabus will include a short summary of the facts; the word “Held,” followed by an announcement of the court’s judgment; and several paragraphs summarizing the reasons for the judgment, and referencing the relevant pages from the opinions that follow.

One justice will write an opinion that supports the majority ruling of the court. Other justices may join that opinion all or in part, or they may write concurring opinions. Justices who disagree with the majority ruling may write dissenting opinions.

If the decision is complex, it may take legal scholars several days or even weeks to understand its full impact on Michigan and other universities across the country, Krislov says.

A number of conferences are being planned during the summer and fall by higher education and legal organizations to analyze and explain the effects of the Court’s decision on university policies nationwide.

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