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The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next month in a high-stakes affirmative action lawsuit brought against Harvard that could end race-conscious college admissions in the United States.
The court will hear two similar lawsuits brought by the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions in one day on Oct. 31 — one against the University of North Carolina and a second against Harvard.
SFFA is asking justices to ban the consideration of race in college admissions, arguing that Harvard and UNC discriminate against Asian American applicants and violate federal law with their race-conscious admissions processes.
The Supreme Court previously agreed to hear the cases jointly, but it separated them in July, allowing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92, who has recused herself from the Harvard case due to her past service on the school’s Board of Overseers, to rule in the UNC case.
The court will hear the case near the beginning of a nine-month term that includes a flurry of major cases on issues including LGBTQ+ rights, redistricting, and elections administration.
Justices will hear the UNC case beginning at 10 a.m. on Oct. 31. The court will hear the Harvard case later that day.
Lawyers representing SFFA will argue first in both cases. The group will have 45 minutes to deliver its arguments in the UNC case and 35 minutes in the Harvard case, consistent with the time the respective schools will have to respond.
In the UNC case, the university, student respondents, and the U.S. solicitor general will all deliver arguments in favor of affirmative action. Harvard lawyers will be joined only by the solicitor general after the court denied a request from 25 Harvard student organizations, represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, for ten minutes of oral argument.
In its request for time in the Harvard case, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said justices should hear from student groups because their “very existence … hangs in the balance” with the lawsuit.
“Should Petitioner prevail, many Amici Organizations and their sub-groups would suffer such a sharp decline in their membership ranks that they either would cease to exist or would be so weakened that they could no longer fulfill their missions,” the filing said.
The Supreme Court granted the U.S. solicitor general, Elizabeth B. Prelogar, 15 minutes for oral argument in both cases.
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