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William Consovoy, Attorney Who Represented Students for Fair Admissions, Dies at 48

William S. Consovoy speaks to the press outside the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in November 2018.
William S. Consovoy speaks to the press outside the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in November 2018. By Amy Y. Li

William S. Consovoy, an attorney who was a prominent face for conservative causes, died on Monday evening, his law firm Consovoy McCarthy announced on Tuesday. He was 48.

Consovoy had represented anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions since it first filed suit against Harvard in 2014, alleging the University’s admissions practices are “racially and ethnically discriminatory” and violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He had been scheduled to give oral arguments on behalf of SFFA to the Supreme Court in October, but pulled out just days before to receive brain cancer treatment.

Two lower courts ruled in favor of Harvard, and SFFA appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in 2021. The court heard the case in October and is expected to issue a ruling in the spring or summer of 2023.

In a statement to The Crimson, SFFA founder and president Edward J. Blum called Consovoy a “brilliant legal mind who inspired so many of us to work to achieve the noble goal of equal rights for all Americans.”

“His laughter, wit and generous nature will be missed by his family, colleagues and friends,” Blum wrote.

A former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, Consovoy had a long history of serving conservative causes: before SFFA, Blum and Consovoy worked on an anti-affirmative action lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin and also represented an Alabama county accused of violating the Voting Rights Act, successfully convincing the Supreme Court to overturn portions of the 1965 law. He also represented former President Donald J. Trump in a legal battle with Congress over the release of his tax returns.

The press release from the firm lauded Consovoy’s commitment to his clients and the future of the legal field.

“Will believed passionately in providing every client the highest quality representation, no matter the forum. And he believed just as passionately in providing opportunities for young lawyers to gain experience,” the press release reads.

Consovoy’s law partner, Thomas R. McCarthy, said Consovoy was not only “among the top advocates of his generation,” but was also “the most loyal of friends.”

“Always putting others’ interests before his own, Will went out of his way to help a friend or family member in need,” McCarthy said in the release. “He loved to make other people smile — and loved even more to make them laugh. It is his love, loyalty, and laughter that we will miss most of all.”

Consovoy, whose wife died following a battle with cancer in April 2021, is survived by his parents, stepfather, sister, and niece.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at rahem.hamid@thecrimson.com.

—Staff Writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at nia.orakwue@thecrimson.com.

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