June 23, 2016
In a complete victory for Latham’s client, the University of Texas at Austin, the US Supreme Court today decisively ended a long-running lawsuit that had challenged the University’s admissions policies by upholding the constitutionality of UT’s consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions. In today’s opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court strongly reaffirmed the core holdings of Grutter v. Bollinger, a case that Latham’s Maureen Mahoney and Scott Ballenger successfully briefed and argued in 2003: that “universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program” in the search “for students with a range of skills, experiences, and performances”; that the consideration of race in this limited fashion is consistent with “the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts—the classic assertion of humanities”; and that “enrolling a diverse student body ‘promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes,” and “‘better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.’” The Court also held that it was “persuaded by UT from this record” that the University’s consideration of race in admissions was narrowly tailored and appropriately modest but “necessary” to achieve the University’s educational goals, when race-neutral alternatives had been tried extensively without success.
A team of Latham’s Supreme Court practitioners led by Gregory Garre and including Maureen Mahoney and Scott Ballenger have defended UT against a broad-scale attack on its admissions plan, and on affirmative action in higher education more generally, for more than four years and through two trips to the Supreme Court. Today’s decision brings an end to the litigation and a total victory for UT and higher education more generally.