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Supreme Court Delays Harvard Affirmative Action Lawsuit Indefinitely

— June 15, 2021

The lawsuit alleges that Harvard’s consideration of race in its admissions process disadvantages Asian and Asian-American students.

The Supreme Court has delayed action on a lawsuit against Harvard, which challenges the university’s use of race-based affirmative action in its admissions process.

CNN reports that the Supreme Court’s deferral could mean the case will remain unresolved for months to come.

In a Monday order, the justices asked the federal Department of Justice to offer its views on the lawsuit. According to CNN, the bench’s decision likely has further implications: it is possible the justices are not sure whether or when they wish to hear or weigh in on the complaint.

The Supreme Court also did not set any deadline for an eventual filing. If the court had, conversely, accepted the case, it would have immediately added the lawsuit to the justices’ 2021-2022 calendar.

Despite CNN’s apparent skepticism, plaintiff organization Students for Fair Admissions remains optimistic that the justices will eventually take the case.

“Students for Fair Admissions remains hopeful that, regardless of the views of the solicitor general, the justices will grant to hear our case and end race-based affirmative action in college admissions,” SFFA President Edward Blum told The Harvard Crimson.

Gates to Harvard University. Image via Flickr/user:sackton. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The Crimson notes that President Joe Biden has yet to nominate a solicitor general, although Elizabeth B. Prelogar is serving as acting Solicitor General.

Andrew D. Bradt, a law professor at the University of California’s Berkeley campus, told the Crimson that it is hard to predict what sort of input Prelogar will give the court.

“It’s a high-profile case involving a very controversial issue,” Bradt said, “and so it’s not unusual for the court to seek the Solicitor General’s views.

“We don’t have a permanent Solicitor General, so because we don’t have a nominee, much less a confirmation, it’s a little bit more of a mystery,” Bradt told the Crimson. “We don’t really know what the department’s position is going to be. In this case, I think that may be one of the reasons why the Court is seeking their views.”

As has reported before, the lawsuit alleges that Harvard’s race-based affirmative action policies illegally discriminate against Asian and Asian-American candidates. The complaint contends that Harvard’s consideration of race as part of the admissions process holds Asian-ethnicity applicants to a higher standard than other groups, effectively capping their numbers.

Since the lawsuit was first filed in 2014, Harvard has maintained that its admissions process is fair and transparent. The university has also urged the Supreme Court to hold true to 1978 precedent holding that colleges may use race as an admissions criteria to ensure the diversity of student bodies.

“Universities across the country have followed this precedent in structuring their admissions processes,” Harvard attorneys argued. “And the American public has looked to this precedent for assurance that the Nation recognizes and values the benefits of diversity and that the path to leadership is open to all.”


Supreme Court Delays Decision on Reviewing Harvard Admissions Lawsuit

Supreme Court effectively delays challenge to Harvard affirmative action policies for several months

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