|[April 8, 2002 -- Washington, DC]
A trial to determine the constitutionality of minority admissions
preferences at the University of Washington Law School began on April 8, 2002 at 9:00 a.m.
in federal district court in Seattle.
The trial before Judge
Thomas Zilly marks the culmination of a five-year legal battle by rejected white
applicants Katuria Smith, Angela Rock, and Michael Pyle, who sued the Law School after
being subjected to more rigorous admissions standards than were applied to minority
applicants. The three plaintiffs in Smith v. University of Washington Law School
will attempt to prove at trial that the resulting discrimination was a violation of their
rights under both the Constitution and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The three are
represented by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) in Washington, DC.
The University does not deny that it treated minority applicants preferentially, but --
like many universities nationwide - it justifies its race-based admissions system by
pointing to Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell's lone 1978 opinion in Regents of the
University of California v. Bakke. Justice Powell said race could be used in
admissions as one of many factors to achieve intellectual diversity in the student
body, but said racial balancing and a dual admissions standard were unconstitutional. None
of the other eight Supreme Court Justices in Bakke endorsed Powell's diversity
rationale. However, unlike the other U.S. Courts of Appeal to address the issue, the Ninth
Circuit ruled in the current Smith case that Powell's standard is the governing
law. Judge Zilly must now determine whether the Law School violated that standard.
Counsel for the plaintiffs (Smith et al) is CIR General Counsel Michael Rosman. He
will demonstrate to the court this week that the U. Washington Law School had exactly the
type of dual admissions system that Powell's 1978 Bakke standard prohibits. For
example, Mr. Rosman will point to evidence showing that, for some combinations of GPA and
LSAT score, every black applicant was admitted, while not a single non-minority was
accepted. This dual standard - in place until Washington voters banned racial preferences
in 1998 (via Initiative 200) - was designed to ensure that about one-third of each
entering class consisted of minorities. As additional evidence that the school was more
interested in racial balancing than intellectual diversity, Rosman will show that only
minority applicants received letters from the Law School asking them to provide
information about their contribution to diversity. As a result, Katuria Smith, who was
born poor to a single teenage mother, and worked as a janitor, construction worker, and
cattle auction hand, was deemed to contribute nothing to diversity.
"Given the strength of the evidence, we begin this trial with a lot of
confidence," stated Curt Levey, CIR's Director of Legal & Public Affairs. Mr.
Levey explained that "while Justice Powell sanctioned the use of race as a small plus
factor, the evidence reveals that race played a dominant role in the Law School's
admissions system. The school's purported interest in diversity will be shown to be little
more than a cover for engineering a preferred racial composition of students."
Levey also added: "With the legality of race-based admissions in this country hanging
by a thread, the verdict in the Smith case will have a big impact nationwide."
|Contact: Center for Individual
Attention: Curt Levey
Phone 202-833-8400, extension 114
CIR is a national public interest
law firm specializing in civil rights, First Amendment issues, and constitutional limits
on federal power. CIR has directly litigated and won important Supreme Court cases in each
of these areas.
case against UW heard in federal court (4/10/02)
Excerpted from the
Seattle Times story by Times Tan Vinh as it appeared in the Seattle Times on 4/10/02
"Katuria Smith, Angela Rock and Michael Pyle thought their grades and test scores
were as good as any applicant at the University of Washington School of Law.
"But when the three white students were denied admission in the mid-1990s, each
became convinced that minorities with lower scores had been admitted instead.
"A reverse-discrimination lawsuit against the UW by the three students is being heard
this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
"[The racial quota rules which were used by U. Washington to deny admission to the
three plaintiffs were] based on the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court Bakke ruling, which [in a
fractured, minority opinion from the high court] allowed colleges to use race as one of
many factors in admissions policies when a compelling interest for such preferences
"Critics argue that colleges interpret that too liberally. The Center of Individual
Rights, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents the plaintiffs, thinks the UW Law
School used race as the "dominant" criteria in selecting students for
"According to court documents, [Katuria] Smith, who was denied admission at UW in
1994, had a 3.28 grade-point average and a Law School Assessment Test (LSAT) score in the
94th percentile. She eventually attended Seattle University and now practices law in New
"[Angela] Rock, who was denied admission in 1995, had a 3.65 grade average and an
LSAT score in the 93rd percentile. She was admitted to Georgetown Law School and practices
law in Las Vegas.
"[Michael] Pyle, who was turned down for admission in 1996, had a 3.15 grade average
and an LSAT score in the 97th percentile. In 1999, he was admitted to the UW Law School
but pursued another career.
In an attempt to defend the university's use of racial admissions criteria, one witness
for the UW defense attempted to show that at least one of the plaintiffs, Ms. Angela Rock,
would not have been admitted anyway based on the quality of her application essay.
The Seattle Times writes: "Kathy Swinehart, a UW admissions officer, testified Monday
that [Angela] Rock's essay "was not the caliber of other applicants" and that
Rock did not get exceptional grades in key courses."
"A decision in favor of the plaintiffs means a hearing would be set up to determine
monetary damages. " (Excerpted from the 4/10/02 story in the Seattle Times by
reporter Tan Vinh.)
Known Link to the Seattle Times Story:
END of Smith v. University of Washington Law