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ABA Urges Court to Uphold Race-Conscious Admissions Policy at U. of Texas-Austin

ABA Urges Court to Uphold Race-Conscious Admissions Policy at U. of Texas-Austin

By Daniel Buchanan

The American Bar Association is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the University of Texas at Austin’s use of race as one of myriad factors in undergraduate admissions decisions.

In an amicus brief filed Aug. 13 in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the ABA cited its policies and activities since the late 1960s that have promoted diversity in legal education and the legal profession, including those of its Center for Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

“As this long history demonstrates, the ABA is convinced that increased participation by our nation’s racial and ethnic minorities in its legal and leadership positions remains critical today and that undergraduate institutions are a necessary part of the pipeline to law schools and the legal profession,” the brief states.

Arguing that a diverse legal profession is “a compelling state interest,” the ABA notes that “the legal profession plays a critical role in American society. Lawyers formulate and implement our laws, resolve commercial disputes and protect the rights of citizens. … Diversity in the profession shows that the path to leadership is open to all citizens and demonstrates that the justice system serves the public in a fair and inclusive manner. Moreover, such diversity improves the quality of legal services and judicial decisions, and is necessary for successful competition in the global marketplace.”

According to the brief, race-conscious admissions policies have helped make law schools, and consequently, the legal profession more inclusive of racial and ethnic minorities.

“Nevertheless, African-American and Latino representation in the legal profession remains inadequate and is not keeping pace with the nation’s demographic trends,” the brief states. “The ABA submits that now is not the time to restrict institutions of higher education from considering race in admissions decisions as they pursue the benefits of diversity, and that doing so would also present a serious risk that the progress made so far would be lost.”

The brief concludes by urging the court to uphold the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and “reaffirm that admissions policies that use race as merely one of many factors satisfy the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause.”

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