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Paul, Weiss Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Support of Diversity in Higher Education

As reported by the National Law Journal, Paul, Weiss filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the American Bar Association, asking the Court to affirm the lower court decisions and reject a request by Students for Fair Admissions to overturn the Supreme Court’s precedent in Grutter v. Bollinger. That decision held that the use of race-conscious admissions policies to achieve a compelling interest in diversity in higher education is constitutional. Students for Fair Admissions is a nonprofit group that takes a position that such policies are unfair and unconstitutional.

The two appeals—Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina—involve a challenge by the petitioner to admissions policies used by Harvard College and the University of North Carolina (along with many other institutions of higher education) that take into account race, as one factor among many, in evaluating an applicant for admission. Decades prior to Grutter, the Supreme Court recognized in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978 that the “the ‘nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure’ to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples.” In Grutter, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the value of diversity in higher education and held that race-conscious admissions policies were a constitutional means of achieving diversity in higher education. And, in the past decade, in two cases for which Paul, Weiss also filed amicus briefs on behalf of the American Bar Association, the Supreme Court again reaffirmed that diversity is a compelling interest and that admissions policies that take race into account as one factor among many is a constitutional means of achieving that compelling interest.

The ABA’s brief argues that the elimination of race-conscious admissions policies would significantly harm the legal profession. As the Supreme Court recognized, diversity in higher education helps to eliminate racial biases and stereotypes, and the elimination of those evils is of utmost importance in the justice system and in all areas where lawyers perform vital functions, including as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and regulators, among many other roles. Diverse educational environments help break down racial biases and stereotypes by exposing students to people with varied backgrounds and experiences. The evidence demonstrates that the decisions and actions of lawyers today continue to be influenced by implicit bias and stereotypes, which impedes the goal of providing equal justice under the law.

The amicus brief further argues that race-conscious admissions policies also lead to a more racially diverse legal profession and judiciary, which is essential to the actual and perceived legitimacy of the legal profession. A diverse legal industry is better able to serve the needs of our diverse (and increasingly global) society, and trust is built when those in power reflect the diversity found in our society. While much progress has been made in the decades since Bakke and Grutter, the ABA argues that there is much more room for improvement, and eliminating the use of race-conscious admissions policies would take away a powerful tool used by our institutions of higher education to address the continuing lack of diversity in the legal industry and to stamp out persistent racial biases and stereotypes.

The Paul, Weiss team included, among others, litigation of counsel Sidney Rosdeitcher, partners Loretta LynchJaren Janghorbani and Yahonnes Cleary, and counsel Josephine Young.

Our brief can be found here.

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