Monetary relief for Gratz classmembers

In early 2005, CIR filed several motions for nominal and compensatory damages for members of the plaintiffs’ class inGratz v. Bollinger, CIR’s case which struck down all admissions systems employed by the UM undergraduate college between 1995 and 2003.

We expect the court to rule on these motions sometime during the summer or fall of 2005. Once the court settles several fundamental legal issues, it may be possible for members of the class to secure monetary relief for damages they suffered as a consequence of the UM’s pattern of unconstitutional race discrimination.

The following addresses some common questions about this stage of the litigation:

Frequently asked questions:

Question: Who is eligible for damages?

Answer: Any individual who applied to the UM during the years 1995-2003 and was not a member of a preferred racial group is a member of the class and may be entitled to damages. Preferred racial groups included African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Question: Do rejected UM applicants need to prove that they would have been accepted absent UM’s discrimination to be eligible for damages?

Answer: The District Court currently is considering whether the plaintiffs or the defendants have the burden of proof to demonstrate that an individual would have been accepted in the absence of the UM’s unconstitutional consideration of race. If the court decides that the University has the burden, then it would have to establish which members of the class would not have obtained offers of admission even if the UM had not taken their race into account.

Question: Will all class members receive damages?

Answer: The District Court currently is determining the legal standards by which it will determine whether any members of the class are entitled to damages.

Question: What damages is CIR seeking for the class?

Answer: CIR is asking the court for three kinds of damages:

First, CIR is asking the court to award $1 in nominal damages. Awarding nominal damages is appropriate in a case where the defendant systematically discriminated against thousands of individuals over a nine year period, but where many of the affected individuals may have suffered only minor damages.

Second, CIR is asking the court to refund the application fees paid by all class members. In return for an application fee, the UM represented that it would consider each application in a lawful manner. As the defendant failed to meet this obligation, it is appropriate that it now refund the fees it collected. Because the amount of the refund is small in each case, it is appropriate that the court consider these damages on a classwide basis.

Third, CIR is asking the court to certify a subclass of applicants who may be entitled to additional compensatory damages, consisting of those individuals who, like Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, received letters placing them on a waitlist. Because the number of such individuals may exceed the number of slots that would have opened up had race not been taken into account, it is appropriate for the court to consider their claims together as part of one proceeding.

Question: What is the total cost to the UM likely to be if the court awards the damages CIR is seeking?

Answer: We estimate that there are 30,000 members of the class. If the court awards nominal damages of $1, that would cost the UM $30,000, plus interest. If the court awards a refund of application fees, that would cost the UM as much as $1.2 million, plus interest.

We do not have enough information to estimate what additional compensatory damages might be awarded to the some 18,000 individuals who we estimate may have been placed on a waiting list during 1995-2003. That would depend on how many seats the court determines were illegally offered to individuals on the basis of the unconstitutional consideration of race, how many individuals were placed on the wait list and what damages they actually suffered, among other things.

Question: What should individual classmembers do if they believe they are entitled to damages?

Answer: Individuals who applied to the UM undergraduate college between 1995 and 2003 and were not members of any of the three preferred racial groups (African American, Hispanic or Native American) will be notified once the court rules on CIR’s motion. Any such individual who wishes to be kept apprised of developments in the litigation may contact CIR (, which will email periodic updates as the litigation progresses.

Question: Where can I obtain copies of the motions currently before the court?

Answer: Currently, the District Court is considering CIR’s motions that urge the court to grant relief on a classwide basis as well as the UM’s motions opposing any classwide relief.

  • Click here to read CIR’s 2-22-05 opening brief on the questions of standing, burden of proof, and legal standard.
  • Click here to read the UM’s 3-23-05 response the CIR’s claims about the damages UM may owe classmembers (1.1 meg .pdf)
  • Click here to read CIR’s 4-6-05 reply brief on the question of damages (530K .pdf).