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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case, Fisher v. University of Texas

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a high-profile affirmative action case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas, urging the Court to reaffirm its 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger and allow public universities to consider race as one factor among many in admissions decisions.

In the brief, Attorney General Harris argues that public colleges and universities should be able to consider race not only to increase the numbers of underrepresented students of color admitted, but to also ensure that students at these colleges and universities are reflective of a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.  As the Supreme Court ruled in 2003, there is a compelling interest in providing the educational benefits of a diverse student body at public colleges and universities that can justify considering an applicant’s race as part of a holistic admissions plan.  Additionally, the brief argues that diversity on college and university campuses produces benefits that extend into our society and democratic process.

“To prepare our future leaders to thrive in the global workforce, we must embrace the educational benefits of diversity,” said Attorney General Harris.  “I strongly urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm its decision that public colleges and universities may consider race as one factor in admissions decisions.”

The brief acknowledges the limitations imposed by Proposition 209 on California’s efforts to increase the diversity of its academic institutions.  Proposition 209, among other things, prohibits California from considering race during admissions decisions to its public colleges and universities.  As the brief emphasizes, however, California has a strong interest in retaining the flexibility to change course in the future, and each state should have the broadest discretion permissible to decide how to fashion suitable admission standards.

The U.S. Supreme Court first considered this challenge to the University of Texas admissions plan in 2012 and Attorney General Harris submitted a friend-of-the-court brief at that time.  The President of the University of California and the Chancellors of its campuses have also filed a brief arguing that the University of California is unable to achieve the academic benefits brought by diversity because of Proposition 209, as they did in 2012.

The case is set for oral argument on December 9, 2015.

A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.

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