HLS faculty submit friends of court briefs to U.S. Supreme Court

As the U.S. Supreme Court term has gotten underway, several Harvard Law School faculty have submitted amicus briefs in upcoming cases involving congressional redistricting and affirmative action in college admissions.

Charles Fried, Beneficial Professor of Law and former U.S. Solicitor General, co-authored an amicus brief with Mark Posner, a former DOJ official, in the case Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Professor Charles Fried.

Credit: John Rich Professor Charles Fried

In conjunction with the Campaign Legal Center, they wrote on behalf of former Justice Department attorneys in support of the Commission and its redistricting plan, arguing that the state commission was fully justified in drawing districts, with minor population deviations, that complied with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. They argue that “if this Court were to hold that compliance with Section 5 was not a rational or legitimate consideration, over a thousand redistricting plans would be open to legal challenges, creating massive instability in the political process in states throughout the nation.”

An amicus brief has been filed on behalf of Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and Yale Law School Dean Robert Post in Fisher v. University of Texas, the affirmative action case. At issue in Fisher is whether the University of Texas can lawfully consider an applicant’s race in its admissions process. (The views of Minow and Post are offered as friends of the court, in their personal capacities, and not as the views of their respective law schools.)

Martha Minow

Credit: Justin IdeDean Martha Minow

Minow and Post argue: “Were this Court altogether to preclude considerations of race from the admissions process, each school would also be disadvantaged in its efforts to select individuals who will produce the most effective classroom experience for all admitted students. A diverse educational experience is essential to training students to succeed in the opportunities and challenges that lawyers must now inevitably confront.”

They further argue, “race cannot be excluded as relevant to the effort to obtain a full appreciation of an applicant’s perspectives, accomplishments, and leadership potential. It is neither feasible nor desirable to ignore race in the evaluation of an applicant’s file. To do so would be inconsistent with the aspiration to have a holistic, individualized assessment. It would be as arbitrary and misleading as ignoring an applicant’s college major or the quality of an applicant’s undergraduate training or whether English is an applicant’s first language. Careful, respectful, individualized consideration is therefore necessary to select the best students who together will create the most effective educational environment.”