Post date: February 19, 2003 — 10:45 a.m.
The Black Law Students Association of Harvard Law School released the following announcement this morning:
CAMBRIDGE, MA (February 19, 2003) — Yesterday, the Black Law Students Association of Harvard Law School, jointly with the Black Law Students Associations of Stanford Law School and Yale Law School (collectively, “BLSAs”), filed an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program at issue in Grutter v. Bollinger.
The BLSAs are chapters of the National Black Law Students Association, a nonprofit student organization with over 200 law school chapters and 6,000 members, dedicated to promoting the professional and academic goals of black law students. Each BLSA chapter aims to advance a heightened understanding of issues — such as affirmative action — that are of importance to black law students and the black community at large.
Alumni of the BLSAs are represented among the most distinguished graduates of their respective institutions, serving as litigators, judges, professors of law, legislative and executive officials, and principals of major public and private enterprises. Notable Harvard, Stanford, and Yale Law School black alumni include Kenneth Chenault, Marian Wright Edelman, Lani Guinier, Hon. A. Leon Higginbotham, Ronald Noble, Hon. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charles Ogletree, Franklin Raines, and Hon. Anthony Williams.
In their amicus brief, the BLSAs argue that the University of Michigan has a compelling interest in promoting diversity through affirmative action. Affirmative action, they reason, has played a critical role in helping top law schools fulfill their shared public missions to train and graduate lawyers who are capable of solving the most complex social problems confronted by a multiracial democracy. “These policies help create an environment where racial stereotypes and prejudices are challenged and where students learn to work together, debate one another, and understand each other,” explains HLS student Troy Brown (3L).
The BLSAs’ brief further argues that affirmative action is especially important at the top law schools, which serve as a gateway to the most prominent and powerful positions in the legal and political community. HLS student Walter Mosley (1L), who helped conduct research for the brief, emphasized “the important role these law schools play in providing access to prestigious careers in the judiciary, private practice, public service, and academia, especially for minority graduates.” The BLSAs contend that a dramatic reduction in the number of black and other minority students at these law schools would have extensive and injurious implications for both the quality of legal education and the leadership provided in the legal profession.
The coordinators of the brief from HLS are students Troy Brown (3L), Danielle Gray (3L), D. Austin Hare (3L), and Brooke Richie (3L). These students worked in close collaboration with two other teams of coordinators from the Stanford and Yale BLSAs. “The participation of the students from these three schools was essential to directing a message to the Justices,” explains Hare. “We are students of color who currently attend the very institutions that eight out of nine of the Justices attended.”
Students at all three law schools have been researching and writing the brief since December, and it is one of relatively few briefs being filed to the Court on behalf of students. “Despite the challenges of working together from schools spread out across the country, the experience has been extremely exciting and rewarding,” says Richie. Stanford team member Alexis Karteron agrees: “It has been a challenge to balance studying for exams and writing a Supreme Court brief, but the importance of this case was too great to ignore.” The drafters received extensive assistance from numerous contributors within the BLSAs memberships, as well as advice from members of their respective faculties and their counsel. “We are grateful for our fellow student and faculty support,” adds Karteron.
The BLSAs are represented by counsel of record Theodore Wells (HLS ’76) of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York; and co-counsel United States Representative William J. Jefferson (HLS ’72); George W. Jones, Jr. (YLS ’80) of Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood, LLP; and former Clinton Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills (SLS ’90). If you would like to locate this brief or other briefs being filed to the Supreme Court in this case, visit the University of Michigan website at http://www.umich.edu/.