U.S. Lawyers Ask Judges to Overturn Decision on UGA Admissions
In a strongly worded appeal, lawyers for the federal government have urged an appeals court to overturn a decision against the University of Georgia’s use of race in its admissions.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Justice say U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield was wrong to conclude that using race-conscious admissions to achieve a diverse student body was not of compelling government interest.
In his July ruling in a lawsuit filed by White women who claimed they were discriminated against in favor of Blacks who were admitted to the university, Edenfield found the policy unconstitutional and ordered the school to pay the plaintiffs for having to spend more money to enroll elsewhere.
The university has since settled with the plaintiffs, but it is appealing the essence of Edenfield’s ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Department officials filed their brief on behalf of the school.
Justice Department lawyers, including Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee, cite “overwhelming empirical evidence” that “a diverse student body enables colleges and universities to provide a richer education to all students by challenging students to think more critically and broadly.”
In his ruling, Edenfield said that the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke is no longer the law of the land.
“For this court to dismiss Bakke would be a sweeping conclusion not justified by principles of legal reasoning,” government lawyers told the 11th Circuit.
They say Edenfield did not give enough weight to pretrial testimony of the university’s president, Dr. Michael Adams, and former president Dr. Charles Knapp, that use of race in admissions improves the education of all students. Knapp testified that diverse classrooms elevate “the quality of discussion and the level of critical thinking.”
Nonwhite applicants were given a mathematical boost until August, when the school suspended racial consideration in admissions while the case is settled.
Parks, who has until Nov. 20 to file his reply to the 11th Circuit, says the Justice Department might be trying to use the Georgia case to settle the legal dispute over the appropriateness of affirmative action in college
Laughlin McDonald, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, says the Justice Department’s decision to enter the case in support of the university is significant.
“The law has been going so poorly in the area of affirmative action, but the strong position by the government indicates they aren’t capitulating and are willing to fight for it,” McDonald says.
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