Michigan law school gets green light for positive discrimination

Michigan University’s right to use race as a factor in its law school admissions policy has been upheld by the US Supreme Court.

As Lawyer 2B reported in March, thousands of law students submitted a legal brief in favour of Michigan’s ‘affirmative action’ policy because they claim favouring ethnic minority candidates helps to create a more diverse student body.

The Supreme Court voted five to four in favour of the law school’s policy, but also ruled that the university’s policy generally of using race to decide undergraduate places needed to be altered.

Civil rights groups and university leaders have welcomed the court’s decision, which bring a six-year legal battle to a close. One of the lawsuits was brought by a white student who claimed to have been denied a place at Michigan’s graduate law school while less-qualified applicants were admitted.

Law school dean Jeffrey Lehman said: “By upholding the school’s admissions policy, the court has approved a model for how to enrol a student body that is academically excellent and racially integrated. The question is no longer whether affirmative action is legal – it is how to hasten the day when affirmative action is no longer needed.”