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MALDEF Applauds Decision Upholding
Affirmative Action At Michigan's Law School

May 14, 2002


Court finds that 'diversity is a compelling state interest' in a case that has national implications, including for nation's 12 million underage Latinos

MALDEF, the nation's leading Latino civil rights and education organization, applauds a federal court's decision to uphold the University of Michigan's affirmative action program for its law school. The eagerly anticipated decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger ensures minority applicants will continue to have access to the elite public institution, considered one of the nation's top law schools. MALDEF has followed the case closely and has intervened in a companion case involving Michigan's undergraduate admissions in which a decision is still pending with the same court, Gratz v. Bollinger. The following is a statement from MALDEF President and General Counsel Antonia Hernandez:

"We at MALDEF are very happy that the court has recognized the compelling nature of the state's interest in a diverse student body in a graduate school. Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Sixth Circuit acknowledges that a diverse student body promotes an atmosphere of 'speculation, experiment and creation' that is 'essential to the quality of higher education' and concludes that 'the interest of diversity is compelling in the context of a university's admission program.' The Sixth Circuit further relied on Bakke to conclude that 'even at the graduate level, our tradition and experience lend support to the view that the contribution of diversity is substantial.'

"Quoting another Supreme Court case, Sweatt v. Painter, the Sixth Circuit went on to conclude that 'law school, the proving ground for legal learning and practice, cannot be effective in isolation from the individuals and institutions with which the law interacts.'

"MALDEF has closely followed the case of Grutter v. Bollinger due to its national implications for Latinos in this country. There are now more than 35 million Latinos in the United States, yet according to our latest data, fewer than 11% of those students currently enrolled in institutions of higher learning are Latino, and of more than 44,000 doctoral degrees awarded, only about two percent are awarded to Latinos. We agree that there is a compelling state interest to educate people of all races, who are more likely to serve their respective communities.

"I was a product of affirmative action as both an undergraduate and in law school, and I have served MALDEF and the Latino community for 17 years. "Affirmative action is not about quotas, it's about recognizing the importance of diversity and making up for discrimination. MALDEF supports affirmative action in higher education."

Press Release
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
CONTACT: J.C. Flores
(213) 629-2512, ext. 124
Patricia Mendoza
(312) 782-1422

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