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Case Name Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina ED-NC-0001
Docket / Court 1:14-cv-00954-TDS-JLW ( M.D. N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
On November 17, 2014, Students for Fair Admissions Inc. filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina under The Civil Rights Act of 1964, against the University of North Carolina (UNC). The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court ... read more >
On November 17, 2014, Students for Fair Admissions Inc. filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina under The Civil Rights Act of 1964, against the University of North Carolina (UNC). The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the consideration of race in college admissions, claiming that Harvard's current admissions policy discriminated against Asian American applicants..

Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that UNC's current admissions policy holds Asian American students to a higher standard based on their race, that Harvard is engaged in a prohibited form of racial balancing, that UNC is not limiting its consideration of an applicant's race to "merely a plus factor," and that a racially neutral alternative is available to achieve the same goals of diversity.

As evidence of this, the plaintiff pointed to admissions data that showed a disparity between acceptance for Asian American students at UNC and at other schools (for example, the University of California did not employ racial considerations in their admissions process). Additionally, the plaintiff pointed to the steady rate of acceptance of Asian American students despite the change in application rates and qualifications for those applicants. According to the plaintiff, this was evidence of a policy indistinguishable from racially based quotas for admissions. The plaintiff also pointed to a long history of admissions discrimination at Harvard as evidence suggesting the current policy may have similar aims.

The case was assigned to Judge Loretta C. Biggs on Jan. 12, 2015.

On Mar. 20, 2015, the parties filed a joint stipulation of voluntary dismissal. The parties dismissed the UNC Board of Trustees and the individual trustees named as defendants, arguing that the Board did not play an active role in creating the admissions policy. The parties also dismissed all Title VI claims against the individually named defendants from the Board of Governors, the UNC president, and various other UNC Chapel Hill administrators. Finally, the parties dismissed the 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claim against all defendants.

On June 30, 2015, a series of individual UNC students and parents of students intending to apply to UNC moved to intervene on behalf of the defendants. The intervenors identified themselves as African American, Black, Moorish, Indian, and Hispanic.

On July 6, 2015, the defendants moved to stay the proceedings in light of the Supreme Court's pending decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Although the plaintiff initially opposed the motion, the parties filed a joint motion to partially stay proceedings on Sept. 30. They sought partial stay of the proceedings pending the resolution of Fisher II in the Supreme Court, but on the condition that defendants produce "certain agreed-upon materials." The court granted partial stay motion and further stayed all proceedings on Oct. 1.

The Supreme Court decided Fisher on June 23, 2016, holding that the University of Texas' use of race in the admissions process did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court here lifted the stay on August 1, 2016 and discovery continued. The court granted permissive intervention to the current and prospective students on Jan. 13, 2017.

On Oct. 25, 2017, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the plaintiff brought suit as "an organizational plaintiff asserting representational standing" but did not meet its burden of showing its members had "indicia of membership in an organization." As of January 24, 2017, the court had not decided on the motion.

The case is ongoing.

Patrick Branson - 02/16/2015
Virginia Weeks - 01/24/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Race discrimination
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Asian/Pacific Islander
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) University of North Carolina
Plaintiff Description Students for Fair Admissions, whose membership includes applicants who have been denied admission, prospective college applicants, parents of applicants and prospective applicants, and other interested parties.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2014
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Project on Fair Representation Announces Lawsuits Challenging Admissions Policies at Harvard Univ. and Univ. of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Date: Nov. 17, 2014
By: Students for Fair Admissions
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:14-cv-00954-TDS-JLW (M.D. N.C.)
ED-NC-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
ED-NC-0001-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/17/2014
Judges Biggs, Loretta Copeland (M.D. N.C.)
Webster, Joe L. (M.D. N.C.) [Magistrate]
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boyle, W. Ellis (North Carolina)
ED-NC-0001-0001 | ED-NC-0001-9000
Connolly, J. Michael (District of Columbia)
ED-NC-0001-0001 | ED-NC-0001-9000
Consovoy, William S. (District of Columbia)
ED-NC-0001-0001 | ED-NC-0001-9000
Freeman, Andrew Allen (North Carolina)
McCarthy, Thomas R. (District of Columbia)
ED-NC-0001-0001 | ED-NC-0001-9000
Park, Michael H. (New York)
Ruley, Daniel Alan M. (North Carolina)
Strawbridge, Patrick (Massachusetts)
Weir, Bryan K. (Virginia)
Defendant's Lawyers Bischoff, Christine C. (North Carolina)
Brennan, Stephanie A. (North Carolina)
Colfax, Reed N. (District of Columbia)
Combs, Marianne H. (Illinois)
Flath, Lara A. (Illinois)
Gaztambide−Arandes, Laura (District of Columbia)
Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia)
Holtzman, Jack (North Carolina)
Samberg-Champion, Sasha M. (District of Columbia)
Schlactus, Glenn (District of Columbia)
Scudder, Michael Yale Jr. (Illinois)
Shum, Brenda L. (District of Columbia)
Tulchin, Matthew T. (North Carolina)
Turner, Emily P. (North Carolina)

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