Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter, an applicant who was denied admission to the University of Michigan Law School, sued on the grounds that the school’s consideration of race and ethnicity in its admissions decisions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Law School drafted its admissions policy, which states the twin goals of admitting a class of capable and diverse students, to comply with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bakke. Admissions decisions are based on the following information: a composite of the applicant's LSAT score and undergraduate grade-point average, and "soft" variables like recommendations, the reputation of the undergraduate institution, the applicant's essay, residency, leadership and work experience, unique talents or interests, and difficulty of undergraduate course selection. The Law School’s admissions policy describes two types of students who may be admitted with relatively low composite scores, including students who "may help achieve that diversity which has the potential to enrich everyone's education and thus make a law school class stronger than the sum of its parts." In considering race and ethnicity, the Law School does not set aside or reserve seats for under-represented minority students. The Law School does, however, consider the number of under-represented minority students, and ultimately seeks to enroll a meaningful number, or a "critical mass," of under-represented minority students. According to the Law School's statistical expert, eliminating race as a factor in the admissions process would dramatically lower minority admissions. The district court found for Grutter. A divided Sixth Circuit, en banc, reversed, finding no constitutional or statutory violations.
1. Does the University of Michigan Law School’s use of racial preferences in student admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000d), or 42 U.S.C. § 1981?
2. Should an appellate court required to apply strict scrutiny to governmental race-based preferences review de novo the district court’s findings because the fact issues are "constitutional"?
Decisions under Review
United States District Court - Eastern District of Michigan
U.S. Court of Appeals - 6th Circuit