Nearly14,000 law students nationwide signed on to an amicus brief submitted on Tuesday to the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action case scheduled for Apr. 1. Georgetown University Law Center students led the brief’s drafting efforts.

The brief, signed by 13,922 students at 143 American Bar Association-accredited law schools in 41 states and the District of Columbia, supports the use of race as one of several factors in admissions decisions, maintaining that diversity is a compelling governmental interest as a diverse student body imparts educational benefits to law students. Georgetown Law Professors Julie R. O’Sullivan and Peter J. Rubin submitted the brief to the Supreme Court.

“Students of all races benefit from a diverse student body,” David Fauvre (LAW ’03), who led in the drafting efforts, said. “We want to send a powerful message to the Court, on behalf of thousands of law students across the country, that a diverse student body is vital to our development as effective lawyers.”

Danna Ponce, a University of Hawaii law student, agreed. “The judicial system cannot operate in a vacuum. So I hope that the impressive number of law students who signed [onto] the brief in support of diversity sends a strong message to the Supreme Court and impresses upon the Justices the value we, as law students, place in a diverse student body.”

In Supreme Court cases, parties with legal expertise can submit a brief of amici curiae, or “friends of the court,” to highlight additional arguments supporting either side. The effort to engage law students in the shaping of American constitutional law could represent the “largest group of individuals to ever file an amicus brief in the history of the Supreme Court,” according to a Feb. 18 press release from the brief’s drafters, “Law Students for Diversity in Higher Education.”

“I hope the Justices pause and consider how much work this project entailed across the country,” Laura Weekly, a University of Minnesota law student, said. “I’m sure not all of the justices agree with our position. But, when possibly the largest group of individual amici in the Supreme Court history is law students and they unite in support of affirmative action – I think that just might make a difference.”

“The amicus brief represents an incredible movement of law students nationwide,” Yale law student Elora Mukherjee said. “As law students, we are in the best position to judge how diversity affects our education. Thousands of us believe that diversity is compelling and essential for an adequate legal education. We hope that the Court understands this simple point.”

Previous affirmative action rulings by the high court have been ambiguous, given that different states have interpreted the rulings to justify various positions. The current case will allow the Court to clarify affirmative action’s constitutionality by deciding if white students who applied to the University of Michigan Law School were unconstitutionally denied admission because of their race.

“It has been a long time since the Justices were in law school. Their law school classes looked very different than most law school classes today,” Columbia law student Myrna Perez said.

“I see the brief as a nudge to the justices’ consciences – particularly the swing voters, Justices Kennedy and O’Connor,” Boston College law student Mike O’Donnell said. “It would be easy for the justices, insulated in their positions, many years from their own legal educations, to approach the affirmative action question from a theoretical perspective. My hope is that the brief will remind the justices of the situation “on the ground,” so to speak – the situation in the classrooms.”

Law students solicited national networks of organizations including the American Constitution Society, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Equal Justice Society, La Alianza and the National Lawyers Guild to compile signatures from law students nationwide.

Nationally, the affirmative action case has attracted significant attention from major corporations, the military, Congress and the White House. By Wednesday’s deadline, briefs supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies outnumbered the students challenging the policy nearly three-to-one.

Several Democratic senators, including presidential hopefuls John Edwards and John Kerry, ex-military leaders Norman Schwarzkopf and William Cohen and corporations including Coca-Cola and Nike, Inc. filed in favor of the university citing a need to maintain diverse future leaders in America. The state of Florida, a group of law professors and organizations and thinktanks including the Cato Institute filed in favor of the students.

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