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

Students for Fair Admissions, an association of 20,000 students, parents and others concerned by racial classifications in college admissions, filed suit against Harvard in 2014 for discriminating against Asian Americans. 

The U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts heard the case, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard, in 2018 and ruled in Harvard’s favor. Now SFFA is appealing that decision at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. 

If they lose, Harvard and other colleges and universities will be able to continue denying admission to students based on race or ethnicity. 

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

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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