6th Circuit Court Says Black and Latino Students Can Join Michigan Affirmative Action Cases

Article excerpt

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, earlier this month, to allow Black and Latino students to become defendants in two lawsuits challenging the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies. The ruling reverses two prior decisions by a federal district court in Michigan that had barred minority students from becoming defendants in the cases.

In 1997, plaintiffs in Gratz v. Bollinger et al. and Grutter v. Bollinger et al. sued the University of Michigan over race-sensitive admissions policies they claim led to their being denied admission to the University of Michigan undergraduate college and the law school. The plaintiff's are White and charge that Michigan's admissions policies are racially discriminatory.

In both cases, affirmative action proponents, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, petitioned the federal district court in eastern Michigan to allow Black and Latino students to become defendants in the case. The motions to intervene in the Michigan cases marked a strategic move by the civil rights community to argue that the lawsuits represented a grave threat to educational access for Black and Latino students.

In Gratz v. Bolliger et al., the undergraduate case, 17 minority students were seeking to become defendants "because the suit directly threatens their access to their state's flagship public institution of higher education and..... may diminish their access and college and universities throughout the state of Michigan," according to the motion filed on the students' behalf.

In Grutter v. Bollinger et al., a total of 41 students have sought to be defendants in the case, which will determine whether the University of Michigan law school discriminated against White plaintiffs.

The district court in both cases ruled against motions by the proposed defendants-intervenors, arguing that the University of Michigan "could adequately represent the proposed intervenors' interests". …