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CIR's greatest courtroom victories

 

Gratz v. Bollinger & Grutter v. Bollinger

539 U. S. 244 (2003) & 539 U. S. 306 (2003)

(Clockwise from top left: University of Michigan logo, CIR clients Jennifer Gratz, Barbara Grutter, and Patrick Hammacher)

CIR successfully litigated two cases challenging racial preferences at the University of Michigan undergraduate College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the UM Law School. The Supreme Court struck down several admissions systems employed over a nine year period by the undergraduate college in Gratz v. Bollinger. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court upheld the law school system and generally endorsed the use of race when narrowly tailored to achieving diversity.

 

Although the cases attached new conditions to the use of race and moved public opinion firmly against the use of racial preferences of any kind, they fell far short of CIR's goal of eliminating the use of race altogether as a matter of law. CIR believes the opinions do not reflect either the plain language of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment or the history of Supreme Court decisions interpreting that language.

 

Co-Counsel: Kerry L. Morgan (Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak), David F. Herr, Kirk O. Kolbo, R. Lawrence Purdy (Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand).

 

 

Reno v. Bossier Parish School District

528 U.S. 320 (2000)

Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno

Bossier Parish is a small, poor, municipality in northern Louisiana.

In 1993, the Bossier Parish school board submitted a race-neutral plan to redraw voting districts as required by the 1990 census. This plan was identical to one earlier approved by the Department of Justice. However, the NAACP proposed an alternative plan which would have created two black majority districts. The school board declined to implement the NAACP proposal since it would have involved splitting 46 existing precincts and violated Louisiana state law. But the DOJ persisted in opposing the plan, drawing out the matter over 7 years and two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Finally, in 2000 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bossier Parish. By a 7-2 majority, the Court held that the Federal government may not reject a redistricting plan solely because a new voting plan fails to maximize the number of minority voting districts. Instead, it may block a proposed voting plan only if it manifests a discriminatory intent to "retrogress." In practice, this means that so long as a new districting plan maintains the existing number of minority voting districts, it will receive approval.

 

Co-Counsel: Michael A. Carvin (Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal).

 

View the case files

 

 

United States v. Morrison

120 S. Ct. 1740 (2000)

Mrs. Morrison speaking to reporters on the steps of the Supreme Court

CIR defended black student athletes against false allegations of sexual assault. These charges were made against the accused under the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). CIR argued that the Act, which creates a federal tort remedy for gender-motivated violence, exceeded congressional authority under the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment and that state laws were fully adequate to prosecute sexual crimes or civil torts.

 

"IF I ACCEPTED PLAINTIFF'S ARGUMENT... I WOULD BE HARD-PRESSED TO POSIT ANY ACTIVITY BY AN INDIVIDUAL THAT CONGRESS IS WITHOUT POWER TO REGULATE… EVEN INSOMNIA."

- U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE JACKSON KISER (U.S. v. Morrison)

Morrison was the first federal case to test the constitutionality of VAWA. In July 1996, U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser held that Congress lacked the authority to enact VAWA's tort remedy. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed and in June, 1999, the plaintiff petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

 

The High Court upheld the earlier rulings in a 5-4 decision, striking down the offending provision of VAWA. This case is considered one of the greatest victories for federalism in decades.

 

Co-counsel: W. David Paxton, M. Christina Floyd (Gentry, Locke, Rakes & Moore).

 

View the case files

 

 

Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson

122 F.3d 692 (9th Cir.), cert. denied 522 U.S. 963 (1997)

Ward Connerly, "Prop 209" advocate and Regent of the University of California

CIR successfully represented sponsors of the California Civil Rights Initiative ("Prop. 209"), a state constitutional amendment that bans discriminiation on the basis of race and sex. Following the voters' approval of the Initiative in November, 1996, a coalition of liberal groups, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, brought suit to have the law nullified. A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge's ruling and held that Prop. 209 was clearly constitutional. In November, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review that decision.

 

Co-Counsel: Michael A. Carvin, David H. Thompson (Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal); Manuel S. Klausner, Esq.

 

 

Hopwood v. Texas

78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996), cert denied, 518 U.S. 1033 (1996)

University of Texas logo

CIR successfully represented applicants to the University of Texas Law School who had been denied admission under a school program that granted substantial racial preferences to members of preferred minority groups. In March, 1996, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that "diversity" is not a sufficiently compelling state interest to support race preferences in student admissions and that the law school had failed to identify any effects of past discrimination that would justify such preferences. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied certiorari.

 

"THE USE OF RACE, IN AND OF ITSELF, TO CHOOSE STUDENTS SIMPLY ACHIEVES A STUDENT BODY THAT LOOKS DIFFERENT. SUCH A CRITERION IS NO MORE RATIONAL ON ITS OWN TERMS THAN WOULD BE CHOICES BASED UPON THE PHYSICAL SIZE OR BLOOD TYPE OF APPLICANTS."

 

-5TH CIRCUIT OPINION IN HOPWOOD

Hopwood constitutes the first successful legal challenge to racial preferences in student admissions since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1978 decision in Board of Regents v. Bakke. It is widely regarded as the single most important civil rights case of the 1990s.

 

Co-Counsel: Theodore B. Olson, Douglas R. Cox, Walter "Skip" Scott (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher); Terral Smith, Esq.

 

View the case files

 

Rosenberger v. University of Virginia

515 U.S. 819 (1995)

Ronald Rosenberger speaks to reporters

Ronald Rosenberger and several of his classmates at the University of Virginia decided to found a campus magazine, called Wide Awake discussing social and political issues from a Christian perspective. Like other campus publications Wide Awake applied for funding from the student activities department. However, Wide Awake's funding application was denied because of its religious viewpoint. Without financial support from the university, Wide Awake was forced to shut down after only four issues.

 

Believing that his First Amendment rights had been violated, Rosenberger decided to sue UVA. Rosenberger filed suit in 1991, and with the help of CIR he fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Finally, in June of 1995 the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Rosenberger's favor declaring that UVA had violated his rights in denying funding to Wide Awake because of its religious viewpoint.

 

The Rotunda at UVA

Rosenberger has substantially enhanced constitutional protection for religious groups against government discrimination. It establishes that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment forbids, and that the Establishment Clause does not require, anti-religious discrimination in the administration of government funding schemes.

 

Co-Counsel: Michael W. McConnell, Alan Untereiner (Mayer, Brown & Platt); James R. Murray, Jackson R. Sharman III (Covington & Burling).

 

 

Silva v. Univ. of New Hampshire

888 F.Supp. 293 (D.N.H. 1994)

The University of New Hampshire Seal

In this widely publicized case, CIR contested the suspension of a

tenured professor over two in-class remarks of a mild sexual content, which, according to the university, created a "hostile and offensive environment." On the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court ordered the professor's immediate reinstatement and, in an unprecedented ruling, found that University administrators could be held personally liable for their actions. Subsequently, the University reinstated the professor permanently and paid substantial damages and fees to settle the case.

 

Silva is considered the first case to address the conflict between free speech and sexual harassment at a university. The district court's opinion provides a firm defense of academic freedom against overly expansive harassment regulations.

 

Co-counsel: Paul McEachern (Shaines & McEachern)

 

 

Sigma Chi v. George Mason Univ.

993 F.2d 386 (4th Cir. 1993)

George Mason University campus

CIR successfully represented members of a fraternity in a First Amendment lawsuit seeking to invalidate the University's disciplinary measures against the fraternity for having staged an offensive fundraising skit. Following CIR victories in district and appellate courts, GMU revoked the sanctions against the fraternity and settled the case. Sigma Chi is a leading appellate precedent in favor of expansive speech protection for free speech on campus.

 

Co-Counsel: Victor M. Glasberg, Esq. (American Civil Liberties Union, Virginia).

 

 

Levin v. Harleston

966 F.2d 85 (2nd Cir. 1992)

City College of New York seal

CIR successfully represented a tenured philosophy professor at the City College of New York in a First Amendment lawsuit challenging CCNY's efforts to discipline him and to revoke his tenure for controversial views he had expressed in several articles.

 

Observing that Levin raised "serious constitutional questions that go to the heart of the current national debate on... political correctness," the district court found that CCNY had violated the plaintiff's First Amendment rights. The court's ruling, which was upheld on appeal, substantially strengthened established principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech.

 

Co-Counsel: Scott M Univer, Esq.

 

 

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul

505 U.S. 377 (1992)

"LET THERE BE NO MISTAKE ABOUT OUR BELIEF THAT BURNING A CROSS IN SOMEONE'S FRONT YARD IS REPREHENSIBLE. BUT, ST. PAUL HAS SUFFICIENT MEANS AT ITS DISPOSAL TO PREVENT SUCH BEHAVIOR WITHOUT ADDING THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE FIRE."

 

-JUSTICE SCALIA IN R.A.V. V. CITY OF ST. PAUL

CIR in an amicus brief successfully urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a city ordinance aimed at the selective suppression of politically disfavored "hate speech." The Supreme Court held that the state must remain strictly viewpoint-neutral even when regulating speech that otherwise enjoys no constitutional protection, such as "fighting words."

 

The decision--heralded by The New Republic as "an ingenious extension of the First Amdendment...suggested by the Center for Individual Rights"--led to the invalidation of dozens of college and university speech codes.

 

Co-Counsel: Gary B. Born, Stuart P. Green, Robert F. Hoyt, Thomas M. Clarke (Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering).

 

 

Lamprecht v. Federal Communications Commission

958 F.2d 382 (D.C. Cir. 1992)

CIR successfully represented a male applicant for a radio broadcast license in a constitutional challenge to the FCC's gender preference program, which allowed women to receive a "gender credit" in comparative license proceedings. In an opinion written by then-Judge Clarence Thomas, the D.C. Circuit found the FCC's preference program unconstitutional.

 

Lamprecht was the first federal court ruling to declare a federal affirmative action program unconstitutional. To this day, it remains the only such decision.

 

Co-Counsel: Michael A. Carvin (Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge).

 

View the case files

 

 

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