A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina’s flagship public university can continue to consider race as a factor in its undergraduate admissions, rebuffing a conservative group’s argument that affirmative action disadvantages white and Asian students.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled late Monday that the University of North Carolina has shown that it has a compelling reason to pursue a diverse student body and has demonstrated that measurable benefits come from that goal.
“In sum, the Court concludes that UNC has met its burden in demonstrating that it has a genuine and compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity,” Biggs wrote.
Students for Fair Admissions sued UNC in 2014, arguing that using race and ethnicity as a factor in college admissions violates the equal protection cause of the Constitution and federal civil rights law. The group contended that UNC had gone too far in using race as a factor in admissions and had thus “intentionally discriminated against certain of (its) members on the basis of their race, color, or ethnicity.”
The group’s president, Edward Blum, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that it would appeal by day’s end to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. His group already appealed a denial in a similar lawsuit against Harvard University. Blum said he hopes both cases get bundled together so that the U.S. Supreme Court rules simultaneously on private and public universities.
“Shame on Harvard, shame on UNC and shame on all universities who take federal funds from considering race as an element,” said Blum, who has long sought to rid college admissions of race-based admissions policies.
The Supreme Court in June asked the Justice Department to weigh in on Blum’s Harvard lawsuit, which was supported by former President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump’s Justice Department also challenged Yale University ’s admissions practices in a suit President Joe Biden’s administration dropped earlier this year.
UNC countered in court that its admission practices are legally and constitutionally permissible and that race-neutral alternatives would not enable it to achieve its diversity goals. Of roughly 20,000 undergraduate UNC students this fall 2021 semester, approximately 56% are white, nearly 13% Asian, about 10% Hispanic, and 8.5% Black, the university said.
“This decision makes clear the University’s holistic admissions approach is lawful,” said an emailed statement from Beth Keith, a spokesperson for the university. “We evaluate each student in a deliberate and thoughtful way, appreciating individual strengths, talents and contributions to a vibrant campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive.”
Judge Biggs wrote that she applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s University of Texas precedent, which established that schools may consider race in admissions in ways narrowly tailored to promote diversity.
She noted that UNC “offered a principled and reasoned explanation,” supported by research, for its pursuit of a diverse student body, citing a 2005 report by a UNC task force that its academic goals depend on “a critical mass” of students from underrepresented groups.
“The University has presented substantial evidence demonstrating its good faith in pursuing the educational benefits that flow from diversity,” the judge concluded.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represented a racially diverse group of students who intervened in the case demanding that the university to even more to support minorities. Its statement said considering race in admissions helps ensure that talented applicants from historically marginalized groups aren’t overlooked.
“As our clients demonstrated with their trial testimony and evidence, race is an integral part of a students’ identity, and must be treated as such during the admissions process,” attorney Genevieve Bonadies-Torres said.
A federal judge on Monday agreed to push back until next year the sentencing for U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s friend who pleaded guilty earlier this year to sex trafficking and other charges.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said sentencing for Joel Greenberg could be postponed from next month to next March during a hearing in federal court in Orlando. Greenberg’s attorney had asked for the delay so the former local tax collector can continue cooperating with federal authorities. Prosecutors agreed to the postponement.
Greenberg wasn’t present during the 20-minute hearing. The judge said he would set a new sentencing date in the future.
Greenberg is facing up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last May to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official.
Greenberg’s plea agreement with prosecutors requires continued cooperation with an ongoing probe into sex trafficking.
Gaetz, a Republican who represents much of the Florida Panhandle, was not mentioned in Greenberg’s plea agreement. But Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into Gaetz, who was accused of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot.
An Alabama man was arrested on criminal mischief and other charges after someone threw paint on a Confederate monument that has been the subject of protests at the Lauderdale County Courthouse, the TimesDaily reported.
Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Hamilton said a deputy assigned to provide security at the courthouse saw a man splash paint on the monument Thursday afternoon. The man ran away after seeing the deputy but was captured quickly, Hamilton said.
Courthouse workers used a garden hose to wash away the blue and purple paint, and most of the discoloration was gone within 30 minutes, the newspaper reported.
Seth Jones Robinson, 20, of Florence was charged with second-degree trespassing, third-degree criminal mischief, desecration of a venerated object and attempting to elude. Robinson was booked into the county jail, and court records weren’t available Thursday to show whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
Erected in 1903, when Confederate veterans and their descendants were attempting to portray the South’s cause in the Civil War as noble, the monument has been the subject of complaints for years. Project Say Something, a group that opposes the memorial, has sought its removal but county commissioners cited a potential $25,000 state fine for refusing to do anything.
An appellate court is set to debate a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s abortion law about a week after the U.S. Supreme Court considers a similar measure in Mississippi.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has tentatively calendared the South Carolina case for oral arguments the week of Dec. 6, according to an order from the court posted Friday.
Planned Parenthood is suing South Carolina to over the measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster earlier this year and requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a so-called “fetal heartbeat.” If cardiac activity — which can typically be detected about six weeks into pregnancy — is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.
Opponents have argued many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. And, they argue, with such an early deadline, the law gives women little time to consider whether to have an abortion.
Medical experts say the cardiac activity is not an actual heartbeat but rather an initial flutter of electric activity within cells in an embryo. They say the heart doesn’t begin to form until the fetus is at least nine weeks old, and they decry efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.
A judge has blocked South Carolina’s law from going into effect pending the outcome of a challenge to Mississippi’s new abortion law, which the U.S. Supreme Court expects to hear Dec. 1.
Mississippi wants the high court to uphold its ban on most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, telling the court it should overrule the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion and the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prevents states from banning abortion before viability.