October, 1997: Plaintiffs Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher file a class action lawsuit against University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, charging that admissions preferences for black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Gratz v. Bollinger is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Duggan.
December, 1997: Plaintiff Barbara Grutter files a similar lawsuit challenging race-based admissions at the University of Michigan Law School. Grutter v. Bollinger is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman.
August, 1999: The U.S. Court Of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit orders that a separate group of students be allowed to intervene in each of the two cases, reversing Judges Duggan and Friedman.
December, 2000: Ruling on summary judgment motions, Judge Duggan holds that the admissions system under which Plaintiffs Gratz and Hamacher were rejected was unconstitutional, but upholds the admissions system in place since 1999, ruling that is narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest in attaining a diverse student body. Both the plaintiffs and the University of Michigan appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
January – February, 2001: A four-week trial is held in the liability phase of the Law School case.
February, 2001: Judge Duggan issues a second opinion inGratz, rejecting the Intervenors’ claim that the College’s racial preferences are justified as a remedy for alleged discrimination by the school. The Intervenors appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
March, 2001: Judge Friedman strikes down the Law School’s race-based admissions system after ruling that the attainment of a diverse student body is not a compelling governmental interest. Even if it were, the court finds, the Law School’s admissions policy would not be narrowly tailored to serve that interest, in part, because the policy is “indistinguishable from a straight quota system.” The University of Michigan and the Grutter Intervenors appeal to the Sixth Circuit.
April, 2001: The Sixth Circuit grants the University of Michigan’s request for a stay of Judge Friedman’s injunction against the Law School’s use of race in admissions. The Sixth Circuit also grants the University’s request for an expedited appeal.
May, 2001: Pointing to the extraordinary importance of Gratzand Grutter, CIR petitions the Sixth Circuit to hear both cases en banc — that is, before the entire nine-judge court, instead of the usual three-judge panel.
September, 2001: Less than a week before the scheduled date of oral argument in the Sixth Circuit, the court grants CIR’s petition for an en banc hearing. Oral argument is postponed until December 6.
December, 2001: Gratz and Grutter are argued in Cincinnati, OH before the nine judges of the Sixth Circuit.
May, 2002: A deeply divided Sixth Circuit reverses Judge Friedman’s decision in Grutter and holds by a 5-4 vote that the Law School’s race-based admissions system is narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest in diversity. In a stinging dissent, Judge Danny Boggs criticizes procedural irregularities in the Sixth Circuit’s handling of the Michigan cases, concluding that “it is impossible to say what the result [in Grutter] would have been had this case been handled in accordance with our long-established rules.” No decision is issued in the Gratz case.
August, 2002: CIR files a cert petition in Grutter, asking the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit’s decision.
October, 2002: After ten months of waiting for the Sixth Circuit to decide Gratz, CIR files a petition with the Supreme Court, seeking an extraordinary “writ of certiorari before judgment” in the case. CIR asks the Court to grant review of the case before a decision by the U.S. Court Of Appeals, because of the importance of the case, the Sixth Circuit’s delay, and the already pending certpetition in Grutter. The University files briefs indicating it 1) opposes Supreme Court review in Grutter, and 2) opposes pre-judgment review in Gratz, unless the Court decides to hear Grutter. TheGrutter Intervenors file a brief supporting CIR’s cert petition, while the Gratz Intervenors file their own cert petition with the Supreme Court.
December, 2002: The Supreme Court grants a writ of certiorariin Grutter and a writ of certiorari before judgment in Gratz.
April, 2003: The Supreme Court hears oral argument in both University of Michigan cases on April 1.
June, 2003: The Supreme Court handed down its rulings in theGratz and Grutter cases. The Court ruled in CIR’s favor in Gratzand in UM’s favor in Grutter.