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Twenty Fortune 500 companies have joined Steelcase Inc. in an amicus brief supporting the University of Michigan’s admissions policies, which are being challenged in two federal cases. Randy Mehrberg of Chicago’s Jenner & Block wrote the brief after being contacted by Steelcase. Other companies joined the brief, including 3M, KPMG International, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble. At issue are two cases, Grutter v. Bollinger, No. 97-75928, and Gratz v. Bollinger, No. 97-75231, in which the plaintiffs are questioning the use of affirmative action in Michigan’s admissions policy for under-graduates and law school students. The university, a publicly funded institution, claims that it has a compelling state interest to promote diversity through admissions. The amici agreed. “Racial and ethnic diversity in institutions of higher education is vital to amici’s efforts to hire and maintain a diverse workforce, and to employ individuals of all backgrounds who have been educated in a diverse environment,” the brief said. “Such a talented workforce is important to amici’s continued success in the global marketplace.” On brief with Mr. Mehrberg were Deanne Maynard and Shilpa Satoskar, both of Jenner’s Washington, D.C., office. The brief followed a similar brief by General Motors Corp. in July, said Liz Barry, associate vice president and deputy general counsel for the school: “This effort was really sparked by the filing by GM in July, sort of opining about the corporate interest in diversity in higher education.”

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