The District of Columbia has joined the ever-growing list of states, universities, interest groups and others weighing in on the latest affirmative action case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The city's Office of the Attorney General announced yesterday that the District had joined 14 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands in an amicus brief (PDF) supporting the constitutionality of the University of Texas' consideration of race in its admissions policy. The high court is scheduled to hear the case in the fall.
"We have urged the Supreme Court to uphold efforts by the University of Texas to diversify its student body," Attorney General Irvin Nathan said in a statement. "Such a decision would encourage states to continue experimenting with constitutional practices that maximize educational opportunities for all."
The University of Texas uses a complex admissions policy that admits all Texas high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class and then takes race and ethnicity into consideration, along with other factors, in filling the remaining slots. The petitioner, Abigail Noel Fisher, who is white, claimed she was denied admission because of her race in 2008 and that the admissions policy violates the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment.
The case has set the stage for the first big affirmative action battle since the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the race-conscious admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School.
The District joined Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the latest amicus brief supporting the University of Texas' position. The New York attorney general's office noted in a press release that the brief featured a bipartisan coalition of states.
The coalition argued in its brief that the university's policy doesn’t run afoul of the Grutter decision because it considers race as one of many factors in its "individualized, holistic" process to fill seats. The states also urged the court to reject Fisher's argument that the policy of admitting all Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class exhausts the university's interest in promoting diversity.
"The decision of the court of appeals upholding UT’s use of Grutter-type admissions process should be affirmed because it properly ensures equal protection of the laws, fosters academic freedom at institutions of higher learning, and respects the traditional role of States in developing differing solutions to difficult and important problems," the states argued in their brief.
Oral arguments are scheduled for October 10.