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Campus News
     
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: March 3, 2003
Volume 38, Number 15

Professor, students file brief with Supreme Court

By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez

Margaret MontoyaProfessor of Law Margaret Montoya, with current and former UNM School of Law students, filed an amicus brief in the current U.S. Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger challenging affirmative action in admissions.

The brief was filed Feb. 19 by local attorney Edward Benavidez, Counsel of Record, and recent UNM School of Law graduates David Urias and Ernestina Cruz for the New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association, New Mexico Black Lawyers Association and New Mexico Indian Bar Association in support of University of Michigan respondents.

“It is very important that UNM be involved in the public debate about this public policy,” Montoya said. “The UNM law school has long been a model for how affirmative action policies can be used responsibly.”

Students enrolled in a course Montoya taught fall semester were brought into the national debate to benefit both their educations and the community, Montoya said.

Current UNM students Samantha Adams and Julie Sakura wrote significant portions of the brief and Anita Sanchez contributed to research. The brief will be published in the Berkeley La Raza Law Review with Adams and Sakura as primary authors.

“Our students are now involved in one of the most important Supreme Court cases to be decided in this half century,” she said.

Several students formed the Admissions Policy Project and also recently hosted a panel discussion and day at the state legislature to inform the public about the case.

New Mexico’s three distinct sovereignties - federal, state and 22 Native American governments - pose unique challenges for higher education, the brief argues.

“Amici agree [as Justice Powell held in the Bakke case] that taking race into account as one factor in the evaluation of students for admission to study in institutions of higher education with the purpose of creating a diverse learning environment is a compelling state interest,” the brief states.

“Invalidating the use of race-sensitive admissions procedures would adversely affect … New Mexico’s compelling and constitutionally valid interest in assuring competent legal services for underserved populations,” it states.

The brief’s authors argue that UNM School of Law’s race conscious admissions process transformed the racial composition of the New Mexico State Bar.