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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NLJ: Law Schools Brace for Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Ruling

National Law Journal:  Race's Role: Law Schools Brace for 'Fisher' Ruling:

Law school campuses have slowly grown more racially diverse during the past decade, to the point that minorities now account for 25% of law students nationally. But legal educators worry that the U.S. Supreme Court will use the closely watched Fisher v. Texas to curtail the use of affirmative action in college admissions and derail this modest progress.

"Even without a so-called affirmative-action ban, law schools aren't doing great in terms of diversity," said Vermont Law School professor Jackie Gardina, co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). "Schools are still struggling to fill a class that is representative of the people who live in this country, and that's without a real roadblock from the Supreme Court. Would we move to 95% white if they were to ban it?"

Legal educators as a group consider affirmative action their most effective tool in boosting diversity, and they haven't been shy about expressing their support for it. A significant portion of the 73 amicus briefs backing the University of Texas' affirmative-action plan in Fisher were submitted by law professors or law school advocacy groups, including the Association of American Law Schools, the Law School Admission Council and SALT. Also participating were Martha Minow and Robert Post, deans at Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, respectively.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. famously declared in 2007: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." But the amicus briefs argue that it would be virtually impossible to admit diverse law classes without taking at least some note of race. Minority applicants are less likely than whites to score high marks on the Law School Admission Test and achieve high grade-point averages, they said. And some of the amici argued that diversity in the classroom benefits all students by helping to break down stereotypes and expose them to different perspectives. Others argued that law schools have a moral imperative to help increase the number of minority lawyers in the United States.

Red: Total law School Enrollment; Blue: Minority Law School Enrollment

NLJ Chart

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