UT Asks for New Hearing in Race-Conscious Admissions Case
The University of Texas is asking a federal court to speed up the appeal of a lowercourt ruling that bars raced-conscious admissions at public universities.
University lawyers said last month that they are asking the full 14-member 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to quickly hear the case, which would provide for a speedy appeal by either side to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A process that could take years should be sped up because of the importance of the case and its impact on education, the university said.
The request stems from a Dec. 21 ruling, when the federal appeals court lifted U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ 1998 injunction against UT that barred raced-conscious admissions. In the ruling, the three-judge panel said Sparks violated civil procedure by not holding a hearing or supporting it in writing.
But the appeals court ruling had no real impact on admissions policies because the court said there was no legal reason to overturn a prior ruling in the so-called Hopwood case that effectively eliminated affirmative action.
The case was sent back to Sparks, however, so he could consider whether the injunction should be re-entered. Without an injunction the state cannot appeal the case to the entire 5th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. UT is asking that rule to be set aside.
The case is named for Cheryl Hopwood, one of four would-be University of Texas law students, who sued the university claiming the law school gave preferential treatment to less-qualified Hispanic and Black applicants.
In 1996, the 5th circuit court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and determined the UT policy discriminated against Whites. That ruling was allowed to stand in 1996 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sparks issued the injunction after the 1996 case was returned to him so he could award damages to the four plaintiffs. Sparks awarded them just $1 in damages and cut their attorney’s legal fees in half, to about $775,000.
The plaintiffs appealed that action to the 5th Court. The state used that case to challenge the injunction and reopen the affirmative action issue.
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