Judge Rebuffs Law School at Michigan (April 4, 2001)
U.S. Court Bars Race as Factor in School Entry (March 28, 2001)
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federal appeals panel ruled yesterday that the University of Michigan's law school could continue using affirmative action in admissions pending the appeal of a lower court ruling last week that its policy illegally considers applicants' race.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, overturned a ruling earlier this week that denied the university's request for a temporary delay in ending the policy. That means the law school may proceed with this year's admissions on schedule.
The appellate panel said the injunction imposed by Judge Bernard A. Friedman of United States District Court in Detroit "irreparably harms" the law school by disrupting its selection process.
"To create a new admissions policy in compliance with the injunction and to determine how many offers must be extended to fill the new class will take time," the judges wrote. "As a result, applicants are likely to accept admissions at other schools, thus diminishing the university's ability to compete with other selective law schools for highly qualified applicants."
Before Judge Friedman's March 27 ruling that its admissions policy was unconstitutional, the law school had sent 830 acceptance letters; yesterday, administrators mailed 45 more. The school typically admits about 1,000 applicants to fill 350 seats. Students are expected to enroll by April 27.
"There should be no impact," said the law school dean, Jeffrey S. Lehman.
In their ruling yesterday, the appellate judges also noted that Judge Friedman's decision contradicted other opinions on the question of affirmative action in higher education, including a December ruling by a different judge on the same court that Michigan's undergraduate admissions policy was legal. "There can be no dispute that this appeal presents serious questions on the merits," the judges said.
Lee C. Bollinger, the president of the university, said the granting of the delay was not merely procedural.
"I think it at least implicitly recognizes that Judge Friedman's decision is a departure from the movement of the law at this stage," Mr. Bollinger, a constitutional law expert, said.