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TJSL Professors Lee and Deo Cited in Amicus Briefs for Major Supreme Court Case

October 4, 2012

Lee Deo Amicus Briefs

Two Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professors, Rebecca K. Lee and Meera E. Deo, have had their scholarly articles cited in the amicus curiae brief filed by the California Attorney General’s Office in Fisher v. University of Texas. The parties in Fisher will present oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court on October 10.

According to Professor Lee, “Fisher v. University of Texas has attracted attention because it reopens a previously settled question regarding whether it is constitutional for our nation’s colleges and universities to consider race when selecting students for admission.”

Professor Deo adds, “Fisher is the first time the Supreme Court has taken up the issue of affirmative action in higher education since the landmark ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger. I was a named Intervening-Defendant in that case. In Grutter, the Court upheld the consideration of race as one factor among many in making admissions decisions. Fisher is slightly more complicated since it includes the state’s ‘Top 10 Percent’ plan, which affords students another avenue for admission to the state’s flagship university. Nevertheless, Fisher provides the Court an opportunity to confirm support for affirmative action or to limit or even abandon Grutter altogether.”

“Grutter also affirmed Justice Powell’s controlling opinion in an earlier case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and thus there is precedent for Grutter’s holding,” says Professor Lee.  “Fisher deals with an undergraduate admissions process and Grutter dealt with a law school admissions policy, but the issue presented in both cases is essentially the same.  A contrary ruling in Fisher would surely impair the ability of higher education institutions to diversify their student bodies and to fully equip their students with diversity-related skills for later workplace and civic participation.”

Amicus briefs are “friend of the court” briefs filed by non-parties to add perspectives to the case. A number of private individuals, public institutions, professional organizations, and civic groups filed    amicus briefs in Fisher, most in support of Respondents. The State of California was one of these entities that offered its perspective in support of the University of Texas and affirmative action.  The State of California in its amicus brief cites Professor Lee’s article, Implementing Grutter’s Diversity Rationale: Diversity and Empathy in Leadership, 19 DUKE J. GENDER L. & POL’Y 133 (2011), as support for their argument that diversity in the school setting is necessary to prepare students for leadership in diverse environments, including in the work setting.  The State of California’s brief also quotes Professor Lee’s work, referring to her analysis of the amici briefs filed by various business employers in Grutter on the advantages that universities have in familiarizing students with diverse perspectives.

Two of Professor Deo’s articles were cited in a total of five amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court. “The State of California relies on one of my articles to support its argument that diversity provides unique benefits in the context of higher education. The State of California brief quotes my article for assertions that diversity leads to both improved learning outcomes in school and better preparation for practice in the profession.” The article quoted in the State of California brief is Paint by Number? How the Race & Gender of Law School Faculty Affect the First Year Curriculum, 29 Chicano-Latino Law Review 1 (2010).

In addition, four additional briefs in support of the University of Texas cite to another article Professor Deo wrote for support of the assertion that racially diverse classrooms improve learning in the higher education context. This particular article, The Promise of Grutter: Diverse Interactions at the University of Michigan Law School, 17 Mich. J. of Race & L. 63 (2011),draws on an empirical study that she recently conducted at the University of Michigan Law School. The amici briefs quoting and citing to this particular article of Professor Deo’s were filed by 17 U.S. Senators, The American Education Research Association (AERA) and Seven Additional Research Associations, 444 American Social Science Researchers, and the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.

Both professors feel honored to have been citied in these amicus briefs.

“It is very gratifying that my research can contribute support for California’s arguments in Fisher for the Supreme Court’s consideration,” says Professor Lee.  “Although my contribution is modest, I am pleased to have my scholarship used to help inform the key interests at stake in such an important case.

“I am thrilled that I can continue to have a voice in the ongoing debate surrounding affirmative action,” says Professor Deo.  “When the challenge was made against the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy, I was a law student there. I immediately joined a movement to intervene as a named defendant and support affirmative action through grass-roots and legal advocacy. I continued working on the Grutter case as a young attorney, at trial, on appeal, and when it was in the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, my advocacy takes shape in my interdisciplinary empirical research — which shows why diversity continues to be a compelling state interest and affirmative action remains necessary.”

The articles cited by Professors Lee and Deo can be viewed on the following links: