Case Summary

While it may seem obvious that scholastic achievements should be merit-based rather than race-based, that isn’t always the case.

At Harvard, race is a part of the process and their policies have resulted in fewer Asian Americans being admitted even as the number of qualified Asian American candidates grew.  

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued the school arguing their policies discriminate against Asian Americans and violate civil rights. SFFA seeks to “restore the original principles of our nation’s civil rights movement” and argues race and ethnicity should neither harm nor help a student gain university admission. 

Mountain States Legal Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief supporting SFFA’s lawsuit because Harvard’s admissions system is unconstitutional. Equality under the law should be protected, rather than race trumping merit. 

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Status

Court

1st Circuit Court of Appeals

Case History

In February 2020, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief in the First Circuit Court of Appeals supporting SFFA’s position that using race as a factor for college admissions is unconstitutional and perpetuates racial discrimination.  MSLF urged the First Circuit to reverse the District Court ruling regarding Harvard’s discriminatory admissions process.

On November 12, 2020, the First Circuit issued its Opinion denying intervention, a decision that SFFA appealed, and which MSLF supported through an Amicus Curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court filed on March 31, 2021.

Current case law has led to wildly vacillating federal positions on race issues in American schools. Obama reversed Bush, Trump reversed Obama, and now Biden is reversing Trump’s work ending discrimination in schools in favor of race-conscious equity and diversity programs. Students and schools deserve to know whether their activity implicates core principles of non-discrimination, or whether it’s perfectly fine to use race as a factor in a host of decisions.

The extraordinary and rapid shifts in federal policy undermine consistency and predictability for thousands of schools and millions of students. At the same time, public confidence in the administration of civil rights laws is undermined when the same body of case law is read in such disparate fashion. And schools, in particular, must confront this confusing landscape against the backdrop of the incredibly severe consequence of losing all federal education funds in an Office for Civil Rights. enforcement action.

If Petitioner is successful, the Supreme Court will hear the case. MSLF will likely file another brief if the Supreme Court opts to hear the case, although not necessarily on behalf of the same parties

As the Supreme Court has said before, the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. “Our Constitution is color-blind,” as Justice Harlan’s famous dissent stated in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Current case law has led to wildly vacillating federal positions on race issues in American schools. Obama reversed Bush, Trump reversed Obama, and now Biden is reversing Trump’s work ending discrimination in schools in favor of race-conscious equity and diversity programs. Students and schools deserve to know whether their activity implicates core principles of non-discrimination, or whether it’s perfectly fine to use race as a factor in a host of decisions.

Equality under the law is an essential protection.  For many years, MSLF has fought in court against government policies that perpetuate race-based discrimination through efforts to stop racial discrimination.  

The foundation’s efforts resulted in a landmark Supreme Court victory in Adarand Constructors, Inc. V. Pena

Currently, MSLF is litigating on behalf of Andrew Brigida against the federal government, because a racially motivated, biographical questionnaire prevented him from being hired by the Federal Aviation Administration. Brigida was an exceptional ATC candidate and scored a perfect 100 on the test the FAA used before introducing the questionnaire.

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