The U.S. Supreme Court should refuse to hear an appeal in the lawsuit challenging the Law School’s admissions policy, outside counsel for the University said yesterday during the University Admissions Lawsuits program yesterday.

Paul Wong
KELLY LIN/Daily
John Payton, lead counsel for the University in the lawsuits challenging its admission practices, speaks during an affirmative action forum at the Michigan League.

“We will ask the court to deny the appeal and not to hear the case,” University attorney Maureen Mahoney said. She said the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals based its decision on the Supreme Court’s 1978 ruling in University of California Board of Regents v. Bakke, which found diversity to be a compelling interest, and therefore simply approved the status quo.

“The Law School has won the case,” she said, referring to the appellate court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger. “It just won’t get any better than that no matter what the Court decides.”

The event headlined panelists including University interim Provost Paul Courant and General Counsel Marvin Krislov, as well as outside counsel for the University and those filing amicus briefs.

“The whole country has a stake in these cases,” President Mary Sue Coleman said. She said the event was a way to present an overview of where the admissions lawsuits currently stand as well as a way to illustrate the University’s deep and unwavering commitment to diversity.

“I am proud of Michigan’s leadership in developing admissions policies that are fair and equal,” Coleman said.

Courant said there are enormous concrete educational benefits to a diverse student body, but these advantages require the University to have representatives from minority groups.

“If you want to solve any problem, you need a team of people with many skills,” he said. “A diverse student body provides our students an experience within the world we live.”

In regard to the specifics of the admissions policy currently under consideration in the Grutter case, Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman said the University desires in each entering class a “critical mass” of minority students who feel comfortable in their environment.

In doing so, he said the University looks at each application individually, using race as one of many factors in evaluating applicants.

“It is important to us to be able to say unequivocally that anyone who is here is qualified to be here,” Lehman said.

The event marked the first opportunity the public had to hear directly from the outside counsel representing the University in both the Law School and undergraduate cases. Both John Payton and Mahoney clarified legal issues and highlighted the national importance of the pending decisions.

Attorneys for the intervenors were also invited to clarify their parties’ interest in the cases.

Miranda Massie, attorney for the intervenors in the Law School case, said she had three goals – to make sure what is at stake involves fundamental questions of democracy, to show affirmative action is a step toward fairness and to increase activism.

“In a society as segregated as ours it shouldn’t be a surprise that we still have gaps to address,” she said.

Ted Shaw, attorney for the intervenors in Gratz v. Bollinger, the case challenging the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, said although the University of Michigan has defended the use of affirmative action better than any other university, there are certain things it isn’t going to argue.

“We want to put into the record the history of this institution’s past discrimination,” he said.

The only student on the panel, LSA Student Government President Monique Luse, offered a unique perspective, while vocalizing her support for affirmative action policies.

She said if the University admissions policies were found unconstitutional, “the welcome mat at the door of higher education would be pulled out from under us. It would be a loss not only in numbers, but in idealism,” she said.

Despite the overwhelming support of the University’s admissions policies by members of the panel, there were some in the audience who were not as positive.

“Preference given to people based on the color of their skin is wrong now and is wrong still,” philosophy Prof. Carl Cohen said. “They are manifest violations of the unambiguous language of Title VI (of the Civil Rights Act).”

The deadline to file a brief of opposition in the Grutter case is Oct. 15, and outside counsel for the University said the Supreme Court should decide whether it will hear the case by mid-November. A decision in the Gratz case is still pending in the appeals court.

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