Sunday, March 16, 2003

Lawyers from the University of Michigan admissions case previewed their arguments before law students in Charlottesville on Saturday, as reported here.

Critics of this month's decision by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors to eliminate race as a consideration in student admissions have claimed that they should have deferred acting until the Supreme Court decides the Michigan case. At the heart of the Michigan case is language from the opinion by Justice Powell in the Bakke case decided in 1978. Justice Powell opined that race could be considered in pursuit of the constitutionally-permissible objective of the pursuit of diversity, but the question (as described here and here and here) is whether and to what extent his views on the point are the holding of the Court, since there were many different opinions and the votes were all over the map. Nevertheless, lawyers and courts have acted on Justice Powell's opinion as if it was the law.

That the law is not clearly established was indicated in part by an exchange in oral argument before the Supreme Court last November, with Professor Chemerinsky arguing what was "clearly established" law in another context, as recorded here.

Stepping back a bit, there are still teachers living who remember the first day of integrated schools in this area, as demonstrated in this interview with Harriet Debose of Abingdon.

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