The Supreme Court will hear lawsuits challenging race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina next week. The verdicts have the potential to end race-conscious admissions at colleges across the country.
Anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions first filed suit against the universities in 2014, arguing that they discriminated against Asian American applicants. Following lower court decisions that upheld the schools’ race-conscious admissions policies, SFFA appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn precedent and declare affirmative action unconstitutional.
Here are the lawyers who will take the lectern on Oct. 31 on behalf of Harvard, SFFA, and UNC.
A partner at law firm WilmerHale, Waxman was asked to represent the University by then-General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano ’83 when SFFA first sued Harvard. Though William F. Lee ’72 — another WilmerHale partner and former senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation — served as lead counsel during the trial stages, it will be Waxman who stands before the Court next week.
Waxman will be returning to a familiar position: As the United States Solicitor General from 1997 to 2001, Waxman was the country's lawyer for all litigation in the Supreme Court, arguing over 80 times before the body. Two of his highest-profile cases included Boumediene v. Bush and Roper v. Simmons, which concerned the rights of prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay and the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty, respectively.
Raised in a Jewish family in Connecticut, Waxman concentrated in Sociology at the College from 1969 to 1973 before graduating from Yale Law School in 1977. He served on the Harvard Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body — from 2005 to 2012 and was president of the body from 2010 to 2011.
Norris argue before the Court on short notice — last week, SFFA’s lead counsel William S. Consovoy withdrew from oral arguments to seek treatment for brain cancer.
An alum of Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Law School, Norris clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas before being promoted to partner at law firm Consovoy McCarthy in January.
The 34-year-old has argued successfully before the Supreme Court once before on behalf of CIC Services, an insurance company that sued the Internal Revenue Service. The Court ruled unanimously in favor of CIC services.
Norris has previously argued on behalf of right-leaning entities, including the Republican National Committee. He also represented former President Donald J. Trump in his court battle with the House Ways and Means Committee, which sought to access his tax returns.
Strawbridge will represent SFFA in its lawsuit against the University of North Carolina.
Another partner at Consovoy McCarthy, he will appear before the Supreme Court for the second time next week. His first appearance was two years ago, when he, along with William S. Consovoy and Cameron T. Norris, represented former President Donald J. Trump in a lawsuit regarding his tax returns.
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Strawbridge worked as a reporter before attending Creighton University School of Law. Like Consovoy and Norris, Strawbridge also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He teaches at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, where Consovoy also serves on the faculty.
Strawbridge has previously argued against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate and defended the State of Georgia’s six-week abortion ban on behalf of the state. He will be the first to stand before the Court, as the UNC case will be heard before Harvard’s.
Serving as the Solicitor General for North Carolina since 2020, Park will represent UNC. Previously, Park served as Deputy Solicitor General from 2017 to 2020.
Park, whose family emigrated from South Korea to North Carolina in the 1970s, attended Amherst College before attending Harvard Law School, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2010. After law school, he clerked for two Supreme Court justices — former justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter ’61. Park has argued before the body once previously: In 2019, he represented North Carolina in a copyright lawsuit, a case he won.
Prior to his work in the North Carolina Department of Justice, Park served as counsel at the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Justice and also worked at an international law firm. He has argued over a dozen times on behalf of the state in North Carolina and federal courts.
Along with his duties as state solicitor general, Park lectures at Duke University and teaches at UNC Law School.
In addition to Waxman, Norris, Strawbridge, and Park, two other attorneys will make oral arguments before the court: U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will argue for the Biden administration on behalf of Harvard and UNC, while David S. Hinojosa of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights will argue on behalf of UNC student respondents.
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at email@example.com.