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NCBL Conference Focuses on Bakke

By Peter R. Melnick

The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) sponsored a three-day conference at the Boston-Sheraton hotel this weekend, focusing on the Bakke case and its implications.

In a Sunday afternoon workshop called Bakke: "The Challenge to Affirmative Action," Ralph R. Smoth, associate professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, said the case is "a third-rate case" rushed to national prominence by administrators who seek a broad mandate on affirmative action.

"Institutions like U.C. Davis adopted affirmative action programs as a result of intense pressure in the '60s." Smith said. "They feel put upon by these programs, and they want the courts to say, either 'these programs are unconstitutional, get rid of them' or else 'they are constitutional."

The Bakke case is part of a larger societal move to reverse the limited civil rights gains of the '60s, Smith said, adding that "although we have seen some modest efforts at remedying past inequalities, there's a morbid preoccupation with whether these modest efforts are so significant that they encroach on the rights of whites."

Charles J. Ogletree, a third-year Law School student and national chairman of the Black Law Students Association, told workshop participants it would be a mistake to trust the Supreme Court to defend minority rights.

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