The Michigan Constitution grants the University the right to determine its own admissions policies, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.

The filing deadline for amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs supporting the University in two lawsuits challenging the admissions policies of its Law School and College of Literature, Science and Arts is today.

Granholm’s brief argues that in previous rulings, the court has deferred to educational institutions in determining their admissions policies.

“The First Amendment protects the University of Michigan’s admissions decision-making process against undue judicial interference,” the brief states.

The Michigan Constitution places control of universities in the hand of autonomous elected boards and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that these boards have jurisdiction over educational policy, the brief states.

“The Michigan Supreme Court forcefully reaffirmed the principle that Michigan’s constitution guarantees the University full autonomy over educational matters,” the brief said.

In a written statement yesterday, Granholm argued if a federal court overrides the University’s autonomy will encroach upon the academic freedom granted by the First Amendment to universities, and the state’s constitutional right to make policy decisions.

“Michigan’s universities are guaranteed the right to govern themselves by law,” Granholm said in the statement.

“The University’s decision to achieve a diverse student body falls within the doctrines of academic freedom and institutional autonomy guaranteed to the University by the U.S. Constitution.”

But Curt Levey, spokesman for the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington-based law firm representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, said the governor’s brief is irrelevant because the Supreme Court can overrule state courts.

“It is shocking that she does not know that federal law takes precedence over Michigan’s constitution,” Levey said.

The issue of whether academic freedom is grounded in the First Amendment is complicated, Wayne State University Law Prof. Robert Sedler said.

“The problem with that kind of reasoning is that race-based classifications are subject to strict scrutiny,” he said. “They are normally not given deference, but the claim is that this interest is protected under the First Amendment.”

In addition to Granholm, an estimated 300 other national organizations and corporations are expected to file briefs by the end of today. This total includes 23 other states, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said.

Granholm filed in support of the University in 2001, when the cases were before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It’s a continuation of a brief filed when she was attorney general. We’re not surprised to see she filed another one, but we are happy that she did,” Peterson said.

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