Washington — The Supreme Court on Monday called on the Justice Department to weigh in on whether it should hear a case brought by Asian-American students who argue Harvard University discriminated against them with its admissions policies.
In an unsigned order, the high court wrote it is inviting the acting solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, “to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States.” The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump backed the students in the dispute.
The request by the Supreme Court likely means it will be several months before the justices decide whether to take up the case, which is the latest effort before the high court that seeks to end affirmative action in college admissions.
The applicants, who are part of the group Students for Fair Admissions, are urging the Supreme Court to take up their appeal of a lower court decision upholding Harvard’s admissions program and prohibit higher education institutions from using race as a factor in admissions. Students for Fair Admissions was founded by Edward Blum, who has mounted legal battles challenging race-conscious admissions policies and is opposed to affirmative action.
The students, some of whom were rejected from Harvard, sued the Ivy League school in 2014, alleging it penalizes Asian-American applicants by consistently assigning them lower ratings than other races and caps their admissions. Harvard, however, dispute the group’s claims it intentionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants and instead says it considers race “only in a flexible and nonmechanical way.”
In 2019, a federal district court in Massachusetts sided with Harvard, finding the school’s use of race was consistent with the Supreme Court’s precedents and that it does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
Students for Fair Action asked the Supreme Court in February to hear the case. The justices discussed it at their private conference for the first time Friday.