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A federal judge put off a decision on whether the use of race in admissions to the University of Michigan law school is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman on Friday agreed to press ahead with a Jan. 16 trial over a narrow set of issues, including the extent of the law school’s race-conscious admissions and whether any double standard favors less-qualified minorities. “I’m just trying to crystallize these issues,” Friedman said during the four-hour hearing. Last week, another federal judge upheld the university’s existing race-conscious undergraduate admissions, citing “solid evidence” of educational benefits from a diverse student body. In the law school case, the Center for Individual Rights is challenging guidelines in place since 1992. The same Washington law group had challenged the undergraduate admissions policy. The law school policy says diversity “has the potential to enrich everyone’s education and thus make a law school stronger than the sum of its parts.” On its Web site, the university says “an applicant’s race sometimes makes the difference in whether or not a student is admitted” to the law school. “But is there not other means by which to (achieve diversity) without using race as a criteria?” Friedman asked university attorney John Payton on Friday. The attorney replied that virtually all “selective” universities use race in admissions decisions. Of 365 students in this year’s freshman law school class at Michigan, 60 percent are white, 10 percent are black, 4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent American Indian, The Detroit Newsreported Friday. Center attorney Kirk Kolbo said the law school engages in a minority-leaning, “systematic double standard” in admissions. The center argues that the use of race violates the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause. “In the end, this acts as a functional equivalent of a quota,” Kolbo said. Payton said the law school was fully compliant with California’s Bakkecase of 1978, in which the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial quotas in university admissions but allowed consideration of race. The drive against affirmative action has accelerated in recent years, notably with a 1996 ruling that ended affirmative action at the University of Texas law school. The Texas law school, like Michigan, argued that race-conscious admissions foster diversity. A federal appeals court said schools can consider an applicant’s socio-economic background — which can correlate with race or ethnicity — but not race itself. The Supreme Court chose not to hear the Texas case because the school had already decided to end affirmative action. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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