Press Release

Cooley Files Amicus Brief Supporting Racial Diversity in Supreme Court College Admissions Cases

August 19, 2022

New York – August 19, 2022 – In response to cases currently under review by the US Supreme Court involving the admissions policies of Harvard College and the University of North Carolina, Cooley has filed an amicus brief demonstrating that the 14th Amendment does not mandate colorblindness or categorically prohibit race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Cooley’s brief on behalf of 18 leading historians and law professors establishes that the framers of the 14th Amendment recognized the value – and validity – of ameliorative race-conscious measures. Cooley lawyers Kathleen Hartnett, Adam Gershenson, Julie Veroff and Patrick Hayden led this effort.

Since the Supreme Court’s 1978 ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, colleges and universities have been permitted to take race into account as a factor in admissions to ensure a diverse student body. In 2003, the court reaffirmed that basic rule, rejecting in Grutter v. Bollinger a claim that race-conscious admissions policies necessarily violate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Petitioners in the Harvard College and University of North Carolina cases ask the Supreme Court to hold that the 14th Amendment prohibits all race-conscious admissions policies and to overturn Grutter.  Arguing against this effort, Cooley’s amicus brief explains that the history of the 14th Amendment demonstrates the amendment’s focus on promoting equality – not mandating race neutrality in all circumstances.

Cooley’s brief further shows that the framers of the 14th Amendment were particularly focused on advancing racial equality in education, including through race-conscious actions. Cooley argues that race-conscious higher education admissions policies are consistent with the constitutional text and history because these policies ameliorate discrimination, enable more robust social integration and advance equality of opportunity.

Read the full brief

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