Relief. Satisfaction. Happiness. Vindication.
Administrators in the University’s Law School experienced mixed emotions yesterday as they learned that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the University in Grutter v. Bollinger, reversing U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s March 2001 decision.
Friedman had ruled in March 2001 that the Law School’s use of race as a factor in admissions was unconstitutional.
“This is a great victory for all of higher education,” Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman said.
“We’ve said all along that the district court had it wrong,” Associate Dean Charlotte Johnson said.
“The 6th Circuit apparently agreed with us,” she added.
Johnson and Lehman both said they felt the 6th Circuit’s decision righted the district court ruling.
“I truly believe that what the University is doing, what the Law School is doing, is the right thing to do, and to have the lower court distort our policy and distort the facts and distort the law as it did was a huge disappointment,” Johnson said.
Lehman also said he felt a sense of justification in the decision.
“We are able to enjoy a sense of vindication, a sense that the courts have stood with us and the position we have held … is a sound approach to preparing lawyers to assume positions of responsibility,” Lehman said.
“Ultimately the 6th Circuit has continued in the same line that the Supreme Court charted 24 years ago,” he added.
Lehman was referring to the 1978 Bakke v. University of California Board of Regents. Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion in the case set a precedent that allows race as a consideration in higher education admissions if it is a compelling state interest.
But it is not the end of the road for the five-year-old Grutter v. Bollinger case.
“We expect, however, that CIR will appeal the decision, so we still have another leg of the journey,” Johnson said.
CIR attorney Kirk Kolbo confirmed yesterday that the firm will indeed submit a writ of petition to the Supreme Court.
The high court has the option of deciding whether it will agree to hear the case.
“Assuming that happens, we will continue with our defense of the case as vigorously as we have in the past,” Johnson said.