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Fact Sheet

Revised: October 23, 2003

Below is a summary of the basic facts in the two admissions policy lawsuits against the University of Michigan.

The Parties

Two lawsuits were originally filed in the federal court for the Eastern District of Michigan:

Gratz et. al. v. Bollinger, et. al. was filed on October 14, 1997, and was assigned to Judge Patrick Duggan. It challenged the University's use of race in its admission process to its largest undergraduate college, the College of Literature, Science & the Arts. It was brought by Jennifer Gratz, an unsuccessful applicant for the 1995 Fall Term, and Patrick Hamacher, an unsuccessful applicant for the 1997 Fall Term.

Grutter v. Bollinger, et. al. was filed on December 3, 1997, and was assigned to Judge Bernard Friedman. It challenged the University's use of race in its admissions process at the Law School and was brought by Barbara Grutter, an unsuccessful applicant for the 1997 Fall entering class.

The plaintiffs sued the University, a public university founded in 1817, and specific University officials in their individual and official capacities.

Both cases were certified as class actions for purposes of reviewing the policies at issue.

The University's attorneys included John Payton, a noted civil rights attorney of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering; and Maureen Mahoney, a Supreme Court specialist with Latham & Watkins, also of Washington, D.C. Local counsel for the University was Butzel Long, of Detroit.

In both cases, the Center for Individual Rights ("CIR") represented the plaintiffs with the Minneapolis law firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand serving as lead counsel. CIR is a law firm located in Washington, D.C., which has been conducting a nationwide campaign of lawsuits to dismantle affirmative action. They represented a white plaintiff, Cheryl Hopwood, in Texas, and have sued the University of Washington Law School and several other institutions over affirmative action programs.

In both cases, groups of students and citizens intervened to defend the University's policy. Although their intervention was initially denied by the district courts, in August 1999, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit allowed the intervention and made the student and citizen groups full parties in the cases.

Seventy-five amicus briefs were filed in Gratz and Grutter with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan by scores of professional associations; universities, colleges, law schools and national educational organizations; retired military leaders; Fortune 500 corporations; more than 14,000 law school students, as well as additional groups and individuals. Grutter and Gratz: Amicus Briefs

The Dispute

The plaintiffs who challenged the University's affirmative action policy took the position that the University's admissions practices unlawfully discriminated against them, because the University takes race and ethnicity into account as a "plus" factor among many factors in its admissions process. In general, they sought injunctive relief, and monetary damages.

The University's position was that the Constitution and civil rights statutes, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1978 Bakke decision, permit it to take race and ethnicity into account in its admissions program in order to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body. A racially diverse student body produces significant educational benefits because of the current state of segregation and separation along racial lines in America. These benefits constitute a "compelling governmental interest" which justifies the consideration of race and ethnicity in the University's admissions system.

The intervenors defended the University's policy on the basis that it is needed to remedy past and/or present discrimination against minorities.

U.S. Supreme Court Rulings

On June 23, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Grutter v. Bollinger et al. that diversity is a compelling interest in higher education, and that race is one of a number of factors that can be taken into account to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body. The Court found that the individualized, whole-file review used in the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions process is narrowly tailored to achieve the educational benefits of diversity. The Court also held that the Law School’s goal of attaining a critical mass of underrepresented minority students does not transform its program into a quota. In Gratz et al. v. Bollinger et al., the Court held that, while race is one of a number of factors that can be considered in undergraduate admissions, the automatic distribution of twenty (20) points to students from underrepresented minority groups is not narrowly tailored. Summary of the Admission Lawsuits

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