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Updated 1:00 PM June 24, 2003



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The legal team: Jeffrey Lehman

In the months leading up to the University's appearance before the Supreme Court, Jeffrey Lehman hit the airwaves to defend U-M's affirmative action policies, citing the continuing need to consider race as one factor in admissions.

"It's not a colorblind society. Opportunity is not distributed without regard to race," Lehman said in December in comments that aired on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Outgoing Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman regularly defended U-M admissions policies in media interviews. (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

Now president-elect of Cornell University, the outgoing Law School dean has been part of the defense of the case against the school since the beginning. He has used his high-profile position in the lawsuit to try to educate people about U-M's admissions criteria and to correct some widely held misconceptions.

He has noted that in the Law School's assessment, the word "diversity" doesn't just refer to race. "One of the factors we consider is the student's likely contribution to the diversity of the class," he said in a CNN Web chat. "Diversity is a very broad term. It includes the full range of backgrounds and experiences and viewpoints that help to make a law school classroom an effective learning environment."

Lehman, a graduate of the U-M Law School and former editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review, served as law clerk for Chief Judge Frank Coffin, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. His research and teaching have focused on poverty, taxation and the American welfare state. He was named dean of the Law School in 1994.

Colleagues praised his work on the case and his ability to explain sometimes complex information in a cogent way.

"Jeff is a very clear spokesperson for the University. He's able to articulate the arguments in a way people throughout the community can understand and relate to," says Jonathan Alger, assistant general counsel. "In his role as dean he has been able to demonstrate his personal commitment and explain it in a way that people can understand the intricacies of the legal arguments, but also to understand why they matter."

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