The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition yesterday requesting time for the student intervenors to speak at the April 1 oral arguments of Grutter v. Bollinger. The decision disappointed the intervenors, who have defended the University’s race-conscious admissions policies for years.
“It’s absurd that the Supreme Court won’t allow these students’ voices to be heard,” Education senior and student intervenor Agnes Aleobua said.
The student intervenors represent a group of high school and college students who argue that the use of race in admissions remedies past discrimination.
Last week, Miranda Massie, attorney for the student intervenors, filed a brief to the court asking that respondent Kimberley James be allowed to speak for 10 minutes in Grutter v. Bollinger. Massie noted that, previously, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court granted special time to the intervenors because they presented a viewpoint different from the University’s.
“The court has never been presented with an abundance of largely uncontested evidence on the racial bias and discrimination contained in standardized test results and grades,” Massie stated in the brief. The court has “therefore never had the opportunity to rule on affirmative action as a means and method to offset discrimination in what would otherwise be a thoroughly biased admissions process.”
Massie requested that the court expand the defendants’ time or order the University to share its time with the intervenors. University attorneys expressed support for expanding the defendants’ time, but said they did not want time taken away from their arguments.
“The University made a terrible mistake on this question because the most important evidence in the case isn’t going to be considered,” Massie said yesterday.
When the student intervenors defended their arguments in U.S. District Court two years ago, the court allotted them 30 hours for testimony and arguments, most of which they used. When the case reached the 6th Circuit in December 2001, the University allotted the intervenors a portion of their time.
But at the district court level in both Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, Judges Bernard Friedman and Patrick Duggan rejected the student intervenors arguments, respectively, even though Duggan upheld the point system used by the undergraduate schools.
But Massie said it was the intervenors who strengthened the University’s case and brought forth evidence attacking the percent plans used in Florida, California and Texas.
“We’ve always supported the University’s argument and in fact we’ve added a lot of evidence,” she said.
University General Counsel Marvin Krislov said U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson’s decision to speak with the Center for Individual Rights greatly influenced the University’s decision to keep its time. “We thought we needed the full 30 minutes because it was pretty clear that the government was seeking time,” Krislov said, referring to the solicitor general’s request to speak at the hearing.
Georgetown University law Prof. Susan Bloch said the court is usually very strict about following the set times for oral arguments.
“They’re willing to let the parties divvy their time up fairly readily, but they typically don’t expand the time,” Bloch said.
“The court managing its docket to give the party additional time (affects) the court’s overall ability to get the cases heard and done,” Duke University law Prof. Jeff Powell said.
Powell added that the only time the court grants such requests is if the U.S. government wishes to intervene. The court granted time to the solicitor general to speak at Grutter v. Bollinger.
“The court views itself owing a special deference to the solicitor general,” Powell said.
Krislov said he did not think this decision hurt relations between the University and the student intervenors.
“I think we’ve had a very collegial relationship and we’ve talked about a lot of these matters,” he said. “We’re sure that the court will carefully consider their briefs.”
But Massie said she remained more concerned over the decision of the case if the student intervenors could not present their arguments.
“The Supreme Court has decided to express at least a preliminary preference for leaving (the University’s) own prejudices undisturbed,” she said. “That can only hurt the University’s position gravely.”
Aleobua added that the court’s decision did not discourage the student intervenors or the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary, which will be holding a demonstration outside during the hearings.
“This will not stop our effort,” she said. “They will definitely hear us chanting outside.”