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ABA, businesses to Supreme Court: Let UT-Austin uphold affirmative action

Association and companies file amicus briefs underscoring benefits of considering race in admissions

Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a contentious case concerning whether the public university can uphold its tradition of affirmative action, or using race as a factor in undergraduate admissions decisions. And in the months leading up to the case, the legal education community, dozens of U.S. businesses, the Obama administration and other stakeholders have made it clear that they support the school’s practice.

In 2008, Abigail Fisher, a white woman who applied to University of Texas at Austin and was rejected, sued the school, accusing it of discrimination and denying her equal protection under the law because it considers race as a factor in its admissions decisions. A district court ruled in 2009 that UT-Austin’s admissions practices were constitutional, and the 5th Circuit upheld the decision last year. Fisher appealed to the Supreme Court, and soon after, dozens of groups filed a total of 73 amicus briefs either supporting Fisher or the school’s affirmative action policy.

The American Bar Association (ABA) is among UT-Austin’s supporters. In its amicus brief, the group emphasizes the importance of diversity in the legal profession, which can only exist if “feeder schools” for law school applicants are diverse. The ABA noted that in 2010, nine of the top 10 feeder schools were public universities.

Additionally, 57 U.S. businesses, many of them Fortune 100, jointly submitted an amicus brief in support of UT-Austin. In the brief, companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Dow Chemical Co., General Electric Co., Halliburton Co., Microsoft Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., PepsiCo Inc., Pfizer Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Xerox  Corp. and others assert that in order to succeed, corporations  “must be able to hire highly trained employees of all races, religions, cultures and economic backgrounds.” The companies also say it is “critical” that “all of their university-trained employees have the opportunity to share ideas, experiences, viewpoints and approaches with a broadly diverse student body.”

For more InsideCounsel stories concerning diversity in the legal profession, read:

Microsoft GC named chair-elect of Leadership Council on Legal Diversity

External programs work to prepare diverse lawyers for leadership positions

The 2012 Transformative Leadership Award winners

Advice on work-life balance from the MCCA Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference

Minority GCs at Fortune 500s reaches new high

More Fortune 500 women GCs than ever before, study says

Study names 25 of the most diverse law firms

25 U.S. companies commit to using women and minority-owned law firms 

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