University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Grutter v. Bollinger SD-MI-0002
Docket / Court 2:97-cv-75928 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Education
School Desegregation
Case Summary
On Dec. 3, 1997, an applicant to the University of Michigan Law School brought this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the University of Michigan Law School. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, claimed that, in ... read more >
On Dec. 3, 1997, an applicant to the University of Michigan Law School brought this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the University of Michigan Law School. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, claimed that, in denying her admission, the school discriminated against her on the basis of her race, and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. She claimed that the school used the race of its applicants not merely as a plus factor in determining admission, but as one of the predominant factors. Moreover, she claimed, the school had no compelling interest to justify their use of race in the admissions process, nor did they ever employ any race-neutral alternatives. She sought declaratory and injunctive relief. On Jan. 7, 1999, the Court (Judge Bernard A. Friedman) certified the class.

In March 2001, after a bench trial, Judge Friedman ruled for Grutter and determined that the law school's admissions policy was unconstitutional. By using race to ensure the enrollment of a certain minimum percentage of underrepresented minorities, the court held, the law school had "made the current admissions policy practically indistinguishable from a[n unconstitutional] quota system." 137 F. Supp. 2d 821. The district court also concluded that the achievement of racial diversity is not a compelling state interest.

The law school appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which heard the appeal en banc. On May 14, 2002, the court (Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr. wrote the majority opinion) reversed the district court. The court held (1) that the Supreme Court had established in Bakke that achieving a diverse student body was a compelling interest, and (2) that the school's policy was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. 288 F.3d 732.

Grutter petitioned for a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court, which granted it in December 2002. On June 23, 2003, the Court affirmed the 6th Circuit decision, and held that the law school's desire to obtain a "critical mass" of underrepresented minority students counted as a narrowly tailored use of race in its admissions process. Moreover, the Court held, the school's use of race furthered its compelling interest in "obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." Because the law school engaged in a highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant, giving serious consideration to all the ways the applicant might contribute to a diverse educational environment, it ensured that all factors that could contribute to diversity were meaningfully considered alongside race. Its admissions process was not unconstitutional.

The majority opinion (written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer) did note that affirmative action should not be allowed to exist forever, but, rather, that at some future date (the opinion mentions 25 years hence), only colorblind policies should be allowed.

Justice Thomas issued an opinion concurring only with the majority opinion's implication of a 25-year window of affirmative-action legitimacy. He dissented from the rest of the opinion, stating that the law school had no compelling interest in maintaining an elite, but racially diverse, campus. If the school wanted to achieve greater diversity, he wrote, it could relax its test score and GPA requirements.

On March 17, 2004, Judge Friedman ordered the case closed.

Andrew Junker - 11/13/2014

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Race discrimination
School/University policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) University of Michigan Law School
Plaintiff Description an applicant to the University of Michigan Law School
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 1997
Case Closing Year 2004
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing SD-MI-0003 : Gratz v. Bollinger (E.D. Mich.)
2:97−cv−75928 (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
SD-MI-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/03/1997
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Defendants' Motion for an Order Designating Actions as Companion Cases [ECF# 42] (16 F.Supp.2d 797) (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/17/1998
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (188 F.3d 394)
SD-MI-0002-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/10/1999
Source: Westlaw
Order Requiring the Production of Student Files [ECF# 166] (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Relief from Order Regarding Class Certification and Bifurcation in Light of Subsequent Authority [ECF# 167] (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 216]
SD-MI-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/10/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of the Attorney General as Amicus Curiae [ECF# 246]
SD-MI-0002-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/29/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 268] (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/28/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (137 F.Supp.2d 821) (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/27/2001
Source: Westlaw
Opinion and Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Stay Injunction (137 F.Supp.2d 874) (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/03/2001
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (247 F.3d 631)
SD-MI-0002-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/05/2001
Source: Westlaw
Order (277 F.3d 803)
SD-MI-0002-0016.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/19/2001
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (309 F.3d 329)
SD-MI-0002-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/16/2001
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (288 F.3d 732)
SD-MI-0002-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/06/2001
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (123 S.Ct. 617)
SD-MI-0002-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/02/2002
Source: Westlaw
Supreme Court Dec'n aff'g 6th Cir. (539 U.S. 306)
SD-MI-0002-0017.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/23/2003
Source: Google Scholar
Re: Barbara Grutter v. Lee Bollinger, et al. [ECF# 363] (124 S.Ct. 35)
SD-MI-0002-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/15/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Breyer, Stephen Gerald (SCOTUS, First Circuit)
Cole, Ransey Guy Jr. (Sixth Circuit)
SD-MI-0002-0012 | SD-MI-0002-0015 | SD-MI-0002-0016
Daughtrey, Martha Craig (Sixth Circuit)
SD-MI-0002-0012 | SD-MI-0002-0013 | SD-MI-0002-0014
Friedman, Bernard A. (E.D. Mich.)
SD-MI-0002-0003 | SD-MI-0002-0004 | SD-MI-0002-0005 | SD-MI-0002-0007 | SD-MI-0002-0010 | SD-MI-0002-0011 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (SCOTUS, Ninth Circuit)
Martin, Boyce Ficklen Jr. (Sixth Circuit)
SD-MI-0002-0012 | SD-MI-0002-0013 | SD-MI-0002-0015 | SD-MI-0002-0016
Moore, Karen Nelson (Sixth Circuit)
SD-MI-0002-0012 | SD-MI-0002-0013 | SD-MI-0002-0014 | SD-MI-0002-0015 | SD-MI-0002-0016
O'Connor, Sandra Day (SCOTUS)
Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS)
Scalia, Antonin (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
Stevens, John Paul (SCOTUS, Seventh Circuit)
Thomas, Clarence (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bader, Hans F. (District of Columbia)
Herr, David F. (Minnesota)
SD-MI-0002-0002 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Kolbo, Kirk O. (Minnesota)
SD-MI-0002-0002 | SD-MI-0002-0004 | SD-MI-0002-9000
McDonald, Michael P. (District of Columbia)
Morgan, Kerry L. (Michigan)
Rosman, Michael E. (District of Columbia)
Wright, Patrick J. (Michigan)
SD-MI-0002-0002 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers D'Orio, Lynn B. (Michigan)
Delery, Stuart F. (District of Columbia)
Kessler, Philip J. (Michigan)
SD-MI-0002-0001 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Massie, Miranda K.S. (Michigan)
SD-MI-0002-0004 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Niehoff, Leonard M. (Michigan)
SD-MI-0002-0001 | SD-MI-0002-0004 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Payton, John A. (District of Columbia)
SD-MI-0002-0001 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Pickering, John H. (District of Columbia)
SD-MI-0002-0001 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Sherburne, Jane (District of Columbia)
SD-MI-0002-0001 | SD-MI-0002-9000
Other Lawyers Dreier, Alexander E. (District of Columbia)
Foley, Edward B. (Ohio)
Glassman, Jeremiah (District of Columbia)
Granholm, Jennifer M. (Michigan)
Johnson, Kenneth D. (District of Columbia)
Leffler, Susan I. (Michigan)
Michaelson, Martin (District of Columbia)
Routh, Steven J. (District of Columbia)
Wilhelm, Richard A. (Michigan)
Woodruff, Kathryn (District of Columbia)

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