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October 01, 1999 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-01

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12A- The MichiganDaily - Friday, October 1, 1999


Admissions.lawsuits itervenors
to share perspectives in court
By Michael Grass and Nika Schulte
Daily Staff Reporters
*1 ether in an Angell Hall auditorium, on the steps of the
The Washington, Michigan Union or in the Diag, many campus groups
D.C.-based Center fighting for the preservation of affirmative action have
for Individual worked hard and publicly throughout the last two years, defend-
Rights sues the ing the use of race in the University's admissions process with a
University's very real threat to that use looming overhead.
College of But what's different this academic year - unlike the past two
- Literature, since the University was sued for using race in its Law Schools
Science and and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts' admissions
the Arts. CIR processes - is that these groups have a louder voice, one that the
claims their court cannot ignore.
clients, An August ruling handed down from the 6th Circuit Court of
Jennifer Gratz and Appeals in Cincinnati made history by letting two coalitions join
Patrick Hamacher, were the lawsuits as intervening defendants. The two coalitions repre-
unfairly evaluated under sent 58 students of various ethnicities and grade levels as well as
LSA's admissions system, several national organizations, including the American Civil
which uses an applicant s Liberties Union. The judges' ruling gives them the same status as
race as a factor. both their co-defendants, the University, and the plaintiffs.
"M felt there was a The groups had tried to intervene unsuccessfully several times
wrongdoing. The policies since the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights
need to be changed so. filed two lawsuits against the University on behalf of three white
nobody has to go through applicants - two who claim they were denied admission to the
what I went through." LSA when less-qualified minorities were admitted and one who
- Jennifer Gratz, filed a similar complaint against the Law School. The plaintiffs
LSA lawsuit piaintiff sued in the fall of 1997 and the two intervening parties officially
took form during the winter semester of the same academic year.
"The students' success is of historic significance because the
CIR files asiiarlawsuit case is at the center of a national student movement that has the
against the capacity to change the social context of affirmative action," said
University Miranda Massie, lead counsel for the defendants intervening
contending Law in the suit facing the Law School.
School applicant The ruling marks the first time the courts have
Barbara Grutter allowed minority advocates to represent themselves
was denied due to i 4, + directly in an affirmative action case. For the inter-
the school's use venors to be permitted into the case, they had to prove
of race as an that the University, as a defendant, would not adequate-
admissions ly represent their stake in the case's outcome.
factor. As defendants in the case, the intervenors say they
t { want to preserve the University's use of race in the admis-
The University sions practices, which is what the plaintiffs want to elim-
responds to the mate.

Affirmative action advocates rally in support of affirmative action on the Diag during the National Day of Action, Feb. 24, 1998.

request documents and other information from both the plaintiffs
and defendants.
Outside voices
In addition to obtaining discovery materials, public opinion is
a factor both Dillard and Massie anticipate to play a key role in
the time proceeding the trial.
"You cannot look at law in a vacuum." Dillard said. "Public
opinion determines how law evolves. Public opinion has an
impact on how judges view law."
Dillard said the University has been fortunate to have many
influential voices speak up in its defense. He said backing from
such prominent figures as former President Gerald Ford, a
University alum who had an editorial published in The New York
Times in August, bolster the movement. behind affirmative action
and strengthen the University's position.
"The fact that President Ford, the man who led the most pow-
erful country in the world, says that this is a very good interpreta-
tion is very persuasive," Dillard said, referring to Ford's opinion
that the University's admissions practices comply with the
Supreme Court precedent case for affirmative action.
Massie agreed that Ford's editorial piece is significant, but
because "it shows how marginalized and extreme the position
CIR is taking about affirmative action.
"When you have an elderly, white man who is a republican
and ex-president coming to bat
for affirmative action on the
basis of equality and diversity, "my sole purp
it is clear that this CIR's posi-
tion is only advocated by a tiny de en afir
and isolated minority," she said.


Dowdell said CIR's suit against the University stirred a feeling
of obligation within her.
"I realized I had to fight for myself and the kids in Detroit,"
she said.
After getting permission from her parents, Dowdell became
part of the Law School intervening coalition.
One of her classmates from Cass Tech, LSA junior Julie Fry,
has taken a similar stance by signing on to the Law School group.
Fry said the past two years have been a long journey for her and
the other intervenors.
"It seems like so long ago" when the initial motion to inter-
vene in the'lawsuits was filed, she said.
Fry, a Law School case intervenor, said when she first came to
the University, the issue of affirmative action was not a popular
topic for debate like it is now and although campus rallies and
protests publicize the pro-affirmative action message, she said
she needed to help in a different way.
"I wished there was something more that I could do," she said.
So Fry took an additional step by becoming an inter-
But with prior rulings limiting or abolishing affirmative action
in Texas, California and Washington, Fry said she wasn't too
hopeful that the courts would allow her and the students to enter
the cases.
"I'm kind of surprised, but extremely happy," Fry said,
adding that she hopes the rul-
ing is an indication that the
se here is to courts in the end will allow
affirmative action to remain
tiv/e action in place.
- Erika Dowdell But for the intervenors to pre-
enor in the Law School case vail, Fry said she and others
have to keep the issue alive on

A colective voice?
Although the University and the two intervening coalitions are
now on the same side, the groups are not necessarily joining
Massie said that while both the University and the intervenors
defend the use of affirmative action, the two groups will not
approach the case with all the same arguments.
Even though the University and the student intervenors legal
counsel only established a relationship in late August, Massie
said it is an association that has already been both friendly and
Godfrey Dillard, lead counsel for the LSA coalition, said he
feels the short time has not been enough to create a substantial
"We are evaluating discovery material and are hoping to have
a good relationship once we get to the point where we can work
together," Dillard said.
Dillard said he has spent the last month "doing his homework"
by examining discovery materials.
Massie said she is not daunted by the short amount of time she
has to prepare for the case, which had been scheduled to begin
last month before a judge admitted the intervenors.
"Our perspective is that we were entitled to the same amount
of factual development as the other parties, and though we are
not going to get it, we are confident that we will make excellent
use of the time we now have," Massie said.
Although Massie and Dillard both have different factual cases,
Massie said they will be working together as much as possible.
The Law School and LSA intervening coalitions will have until
March to complete "discovery period" explorations, which
includes examining evidence and taking depositions.
Dillard said the intervenors' participation in the trial will enable
the judges to hear from the people the decision will affect direct-
"Like anything, if you need to make a decision and someone
only brings you one argument, you are not getting the complete
story," Dillard said.
University Deputy General Counsel Liz Barry said the inter-
venors may offer a "unique perspective that is relevant to the
Barry said the intervenors will have a chance to interview the
University's and CIR's witnesses, plus have an opportunity to


A long journey
After CIR filed the lawsuit
against LSA on Oct. 14, 1997,
charging that applicants Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher
were unfairly denied admission because the University used race
in its process, legal counsel representing 17 high school students
hoping to intervene in the LSA lawsuit submitted a motion in
February 1998 to become co-defendants.
In addition to the ACLU, the students' motion was backed by
the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Mexican
American Legal Defense Fund.
In March 1998, a similar motion was filed by 41 students hop-
ing to intervene in the Law School suit, which was CIR filed on
Dec. 3, 1997.
The motion was backed by United Equality for Affirmative
Action, Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means
Necessary and Law Students for Affirmative Action with the
intent of trying to intervene in the case against the Law School.
In July 1998, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman denied the
motion to intervene in the Law School case and similarly, U.S.
District Judge Patrick Duggan blocked the LSA suit intervenors
from becoming part of the LSA case.
But in June, months after being rejected from the suits, the two
groups appealed and presented the case to the 6th Court of
Appeals in Cincinnati where the court admitted the intervenors.
So far this year, the University has paid $1 million to two out-
side law firms, bringing legal bill totals to $3.3 million, said
University spokesperson Julie Peterson.
Barry said it is difficult to predict how much legal costs will
total, adding that each time there is a delay in litigation, the legal
fees pile up.
"The University is committed to the defense of these
cases," Barry said. "It's not about cost, it's about defending
our policies."
Massie and CIR legal counsel Terry Pell both said they offer-
ing their legal services pro bono, Massie said several fundraisers,
including benefit concerts and donation mailings, might be used
to offset legal fees.
Lifting their voices
As one of the intervenors in the Law School case, Erika
Dowdell might have to testify during the trial, bringing her per-
sonal experiences to the courtroom.
For Dowdell, an LSA sophomore, the University is not a com-
fortable environment for minority students.
"It's not always pleasant being one of the only black faces in
the lecture hall," Dowdell said at the "Our Voices Will Be Heard"
panel discussion last week.
The University is composed of 69 percent white students; 12
ervnt Asian sidents:- nine nercent hbck students: five nercent


with rallies and

The prosecu ion
Having more defendants involved in the case will not signifi-
cantly change CIR's legal strategy, said Terry Pell, CIR senior
legal counsel.
"The thrust of the intervening motion was to add new issues to
the cases," Pell said. "But these new issues don't add or subtract
to the main issue."
Although CIR could have appealed the judges' August ruling
allowing the intervenors in to the cases.
"We're glad the 6th Circuit made a decision," Pell said. "We
were waiting in a holding pattern."
But Pell said the delay is somewhat disheartening, since the
announcement of the lawsuit delay came only weeks before the
trials were set to begin.
"Clearly, it takes away from the momentum," Pell said.
Although LSA case plaintiff Jennifer Gratz graduated from the
University of Michigan's Dearborn campus earlier this year, Pell
said co-plaintiffs Patrick Hamacher, currently a student at
Michigan State University and Law School applicant Barbara
Grutter still hope to attend the University after the cases are set-
A national movement
While the trial focuses on the University's admissions policies,
students from other schools across the nation have decided to
Hoku Jeffrey, a student at the University of California
at Berkeley, said he chose to get involved in the case
because he has seen first-hand what an institution can lose
when its does not use affirmative action in its admission
In 1995, the UC Board of Regents banned all use of race and
gender in hiring and admissions. Fifteen months after the board's
resolution, California voters approved Proposition 209, which
applied the same ban to educational and other public institutions
throughout the state.
"Since the attack on affirmative action, we have seen resegre-
gation on campus," Jeffrey said.
In the first year affirmative action was not used in
Berkeley's admissions process, the school extended offers to
64 percent fewer black students and 56 percent fewer Latino/a
Jeffrey said he views the intervention in to the lawsuits facing
the University of Michigan as a way to prevent such effects from
happening on other campuses.
"This is an onoortunity to build a new civil right's movement,"


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