The University Record, March 20, 2000

Lawsuits set for summer, fall trials

By Jane R. Elgass

The lawsuits challenging the University’s admissions practices are now scheduled to go to trial in August and early fall in federal court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

The suit challenging the use of race in admissions processes for LS&A—Gratz v. Bollinger et. al—will be heard sometime in September/October by Judge Patrick Duggan. The final pre-trial conference is set for Sept. 13.

Jennifer Gratz, an unsuccessful applicant for fall term 1995, and Patrick Hamacher, an unsuccessful applicant for fall term 1997, are the plaintiffs in this case.

A similar suit against the Law School—Grutter v. Bollinger, et. al—will be heard by Judge Bernard Friedman beginning Aug. 28.

Barbara Grutter, an unsuccessful applicant for the fall 1997 entering class, is the plaintiff in the Law School case.

In both cases, the plaintiffs charge that the University’s admissions practices unlawfully discriminate against them because they take race and ethnicity into account as a “plus” factor among the many factors in the admissions process.

“The University maintains that the Constitution and civil rights statutes, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1978 Bakke decision, permit it to take race and ethnicity into account in admissions in order to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body,” explains Elizabeth M. Barry, associate vice president and deputy general counsel.

“A racially diverse student body produces significant educational benefits, we maintain, because of the current state of segregation and separation along racial lines in America. These benefits constitute a ‘compelling governmental interest,’ which justifies the consideration of race and ethnicity in our admissions practices.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights (CIR) law firm is representing the plaintiffs in both cases, with the Minneapolis firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand serving as lead counsel. CIR represented Cheryl Hopwood in Texas and currently is suing the University of Washington Law School and several other institutions over affirmative action programs.

In both the undergraduate and Law School cases, groups of students and citizens have intervened to defend the University’s policy. Initially denied by the district courts, the intervention was allowed by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in August 1998.

On Feb. 16, Duggan set a revised schedule in response to a request by the intervenors in the undergraduate admissions suit for an extension. New dates in that case are witness lists May 1, close of discovery June 15 (previously March 15) and motions July 15 (previously April 15).

On March 8, Friedman denied a motion for extension that had been filed by intervenors in the Law School case, but did provide that three of the intervenors’ experts could turn in reports after the discovery deadline of March 26. Motions must be filed by April 26.