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Law Students Gather Signatures for Grutter v. Bollinger Amicus Brief

Baker and Lovett
From left, co-organizer Sarah Baker and third-year Law student Crystal Lovett help gather signatures for a brief supporting diversity as a compelling government interest.

A group of Law School students have heeded an unprecedented nationwide call to support affirmative action in their own backyard by signing onto an amicus brief in the Grutter v. Bollinger case, the first Supreme Court case to tackle the legality of affirmative action since Bakke v. Board of Regents in 1978. Peppered with e-mails from supporters asking for help, students from more than 80 law schools are now involved in the drive to gather signatures for the brief, which was written by Georgetown law students under the supervision of professors Julie O'Sullivan and Peter Rubin.

"Our point of being here [in law school] is to learn to argue two sides of an issue," said Law School drive co-organizer Sarah Baker, a second-year Law student. "It's hard to do when everybody is arguing from the same point of view."

The Georgetown brief, which argues that the promotion of diversity in higher education is a compelling governmental interest, may be unique in Supreme Court history if it gathers the hoped for 2,000-plus signatures by the end of the month. No group of students that large has submitted such a brief to the Court. Third-year Law student Dalton Courson heard about it from the National Lawyers Guild and volunteered to help organize the two-day drive, which gathered 88 signatures at the Law School January 22-23. Courson said more have asked to sign since then.
"I feel like law school is a place where we're talking about issues that impact people's lives," said Courson, president of the Law School National Lawyers Guild chapter.

When he studied Brown v. Board of Education during his first-year Constitutional Law class, "I remember thinking how important it is that we have people who have different experiences."

The Grutter case, scheduled to be heard April 1, revolves around Barbara Grutter, whose 1995 application to the University of Michigan Law School was rejected. She later joined two other applicants to sue the school over its admissions policies, which the plaintiffs assert is essentially a quota system. Debate over the issue has heated up in recent weeks as President Bush voiced his opposition to the Michigan policy and Secretary of State Colin Powell openly disagreed, saying he supports both the Michigan policy and affirmative action.

"It's pretty controversial here," Courson said. "It's going to affect law students next year."

Third-year Law student Crystal Lovett, who also helped gather signatures, said it was important that the Justices hear from current law students. "We are in a position to know how diversity affects the study of law," she said. "We have a reason to speak about it that other people may not have."

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