Members Filing Brief In Michigan Court Case

Posted February 11, 2003 at 5:35pm

Weighing in on one of the more controversial court cases of the year, a group of more than three dozen Democratic lawmakers is preparing to file an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action programs.

“Affirmative action in higher education is a critical building block in our diverse and pluralistic society, and it is important that Members of Congress express their views to the Court on this seminal issue,” Michigan Reps. John Conyers (D), John Dingell (D) and several others wrote this week in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

“We believe that diversity in education admissions is not only constitutional, but serves a compelling state interest that benefits minority and non-minority students alike,” continues the letter, which is seeking additional lawmakers to sign their names to the brief.

The Bush administration recently filed its own legal brief opposing the university’s affirmative action policies, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court on April 1, when it hears oral arguments in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.

Both cases revolved around the university’s affirmative action policies as they relate to the admissions process within the law school and Michigan’s undergraduate program.

Other Democratic lawmakers spearheading the effort to weigh in on the seminal court case include Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.), Charlie Gonzalez (Texas), Mike Honda (Calif.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.), George Miller (Calif.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.) and Ciro Rodriguez (Texas).

Several Senators have also been outspoken about the pending court case, with key Republicans such as Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) voicing support for the president’s position.

“We need not to violate the fundamental principles of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, and I think … racial quotas clearly do that,” Frist said last month.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, wrote to Bush to note her support for the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies and disputed the president’s contention that “race neutral” percent plans will promote diversity on college campuses and in other schools.

“I am especially concerned that such plans necessarily depend on racial segregation in high schools and, further, that a Court decision banning traditional affirmative action could trigger a domino effect undermining our nation’s anti-discrimination laws,” Clinton wrote.

In their letter, Conyers, Dingell and others referred to the cases as the “most important civil rights cases to be considered since the Court upheld the notion of affirmative action in 1978 in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.”