Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Greenberg Traurig LLP, representing pro bono 37 top former military leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines, filed an amicus brief today in the Supreme Court supporting the University of Texas in Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al., No. 11-345.
The case focuses on the university's limited use of race as one of many factors in college admissions decisions and represents the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has considered the issue since its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the University of Michigan Law School's use of race as a factor in admissions decisions.
Amici, represented by Kirkland litigation partner Philippa Scarlett and Greenberg Traurig attorneys Joe R. Reeder and Robert P. Charrow, are former military leaders, service academy superintendents and one former member of the U.S. Senate. They filed their brief in support of the University of Texas because the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case could affect racial and ethnic diversity in the military's officer corps and hence the military's effectiveness as an institution. They argue that for the U.S. military, a highly qualified and racially diverse officer corps is "a mission-critical national security interest":
"Based on decades of experience, the modern United States military regards a highly qualified and racially and ethnically diverse officer corps as vital to military effectiveness."
"As was the case when Grutter was decided, these race-conscious policies are vital to increasing and maintaining the pool of highly qualified minority military officers. And as was true when Grutter was decided, there are at present no race-neutral means for the military to fulfill its critical need for a highly qualified and diverse officer corps."
"UT's carefully crafted admissions policy should not be constitutionally invalidated. Nor should the constitutional parameters to race-conscious admissions policies be changed. The military and educational institutions including UT must continue to be permitted to pursue selectivity and diversity."
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled before the Supreme Court in October 2012.
"Our team is deeply honored to represent this eminent group of former military officers and civilian leaders in this case of national importance," said Ms. Scarlett. "Amici's brief demonstrates the long-held, steadfast commitment of the military to achieving racial diversity in its officer corps and the important role limited consideration of race in admissions plays in achieving that diversity goal."
"The leaders we represent, all now retired, collectively have devoted over 1,200 years of military service to the United States," said Mr. Reeder. "Speaking with one voice in this brief, to our highest court, they each strongly support an officer corps sufficiently diverse to be worthy of the task of leading the finest fighting forces on earth; a force whose diversity reflects our nation. The Supreme Court has underscored the federal government's fundamental duty to raise, support and maintain an effective military. Our military deserves a voice in this important case."
Additional information on the case is available on the University of Texas website: http://www.utexas.edu/news/2012/08/13/university-of-texas-substantial-amicus-support-supreme-court-case/
Kirkland & Ellis LLP (www.kirkland.com) is a 1,500-attorney law firm representing global clients in complex litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, corporate and tax, restructuring, and intellectual property and technology matters. The Firm has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Shanghai.
Greenberg Traurig, LLP (www.gtlaw.com), an international law firm with 1,750 attorneys, serves clients from 35 offices in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.