Although the University’s admissions lawsuits ended with
last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the two sides
continue to tussle over the cases, with a new brief filed Friday by
lawyers representing two of the plaintiffs.
The rejected white applicants who sued the University to stop
its use of race-conscious undergraduate admissions policies won
their case, although the court allowed affirmative action at the
University to continue in a modified form. Now, the successful
plaintiffs are seeking compensation for their legal fees in the
In response, University lawyers and officials said the requests
are unreasonably high.
In a plaintiff’s motion, lawyers for Jennifer Gratz and
Patrick Hamacher — who sued the University after being
rejected from the College of Literature, Science and Arts —
are asking for $2.1 million, which would cover the $1.74 million in
legal fees and $334,000 in other costs they say have amassed since
the lawsuit was filed in October 1997.
Such a motion is standard procedure in the aftermath of a
lawsuit, University officials said. The Center for Individual
Rights, a Washington-based law firm which represents Gratz and
Hamacher, originally motioned for the award in early August. CIR
declined to comment for this story.
In June 2003 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Law
School’s race-conscious admissions policy but struck down the
LSA system for awarding 20 points to blacks, Hispanics and Native
A district court judge in Michigan will decide the next step in
determining attorney’s fees, University spokeswoman Julie
Peterson said. The judge may decide to call a hearing or may
encourage the two sides to reach a settlement outside of the
courtroom, she added.
The motion, written by lawyers for CIR, said, “Plaintiffs
are entitled to their requested attorneys’ fees because they
ultimately prevailed in obtaining a final adjudication that the
defendant’s admissions systems … are unlawful and
University attorneys filed a legal brief countering the
plaintiff’s motion for an award, in which they said the
amount requested is a “grossly excessive award.”
The brief, filed in September, also said the request fails to
take into account the plaintiff’s limited success in the case
for overturning the LSA admissions policy.
The brief also claimed that the $334,000 in extra costs, ranging
from phone bills to transportation costs to meals, are based on
vague entries and excessive hours. The “court should …
deny their motion outright,” the brief stated.
Peterson said the University is responsible for reviewing the
plaintiff’s claims to make sure reimbursement is properly
“If the court decides that we owe some legal fees to CIR,
we would want to make sure that we would only be paying the legal
fees for the small part of the case we didn’t win on,”
She also said it is important to remember that the University
prevailed on the essential legal question of whether diversity is a
compelling interest that can factor into admissions. “On that
question, the University prevailed on both cases,” she
Attorneys for the plaintiffs defended their request in
“(It) is a matter of public record that defendants have
… incurred fees and costs far in excess of plaintiffs’
request for reimbursement,” the counterbrief stated.
Although CIR has requested legal fees, it has not yet demanded
additional damage fees for Gratz and Hamacher for not being
accepted to the University, Peterson said.
“Those individuals would have to show that they would have
been admitted to the University under a race-conscious system, but
one that was revised to meet the court’s (decision),”
Peterson said, adding that it is unlikely that they could show
According to the Associated Press, the University has yet to pay
$14,000 in fees that the Supreme Court awarded the CIR lawyers,
although University officials would not confirm this