Feb. 20, 2003
UNM SCHOOL OF LAW FACULTY, STUDENTS FILE BRIEF IN U.S. SUPREME COURT
CASE ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN ADMISSIONS
University of New Mexico Professor 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 Wednesday 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.
Current UNM students Samantha Adams, Julie Sakura and Anita Sanchez
also contributed to writing and researching the brief.
"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."
Thirty-eight percent of students in the class of 2005 are minority,
many Hispanic and Native American. More than half of New Mexico's
population is non-white.
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. "Our students are now involved
in one of the most important Supreme Court cases to be decided in
this half century," she said.
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.
"A racially diverse state bar depends on a racially diverse
law school and both are necessary for a minority-majority state
like New Mexico to meet its obligation to provide legal services
to racially isolated and economically disadvantaged state residents,"
the brief states.
Briefs have been filed of behalf of the University of Michigan
by representatives of institutions of higher education, Fortune
500 companies and branches of the military concerned about international
"They realize academic excellence includes racial diversity,"