The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief on Aug. 1 with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to adhere to its prior decisions allowing consideration of race as one of many factors in the higher education admissions process.
The closely watched cases involve Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. In both, the issue is whether the two schools can employ admissions policies that consider race as one of several factors consistent with the court’s past decisions, including its 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger. By a 5-4 vote in Grutter, the court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit a law school’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions.
The current cases represent a significant challenge to policies now incorporated in higher education admissions policies, including law schools. The ABA brief said the association has “a profound interest” in the use of such policies because law schools are training grounds for future lawyers and a diverse bench and bar are critical to minimizing implicit bias among lawyers and “inspiring greater public faith in the rule of law.”
“Eliminating race-conscious admissions policies would inflict great harm on the legal profession and the nation,” the ABA brief said. “Such policies play a vital role toward eliminating the taint of racism from our justice system and from other areas where lawyers perform vital functions. These admissions policies also ensure a more racially diverse legal profession and judiciary, which are essential to the legitimacy of our legal system and to the legal profession’s ability to better serve the needs of our diverse society.”
The brief noted that the Supreme Court has “long recognized that a principal benefit of admissions policies that consider race as one factor … is the creation of diverse student bodies” that help break down racial biases and stereotypes. Overturning Grutter, it added, “would deprive the legal system of this important tool … and put at risk the benefits of diversity resulting from admissions policies that consider race as one of many factors.”
The cases are scheduled to be heard in the term that begins in October, but no date has been set for oral arguments.
- ABA brief in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina
- Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
- ABA Standing Committee on Amicus Curiae Briefs
- ABA Journal: “ABA amicus brief asks Supreme Court to uphold use of race-conscious admissions policies”