Supreme Court To Consider Taking Up Harvard Admissions Lawsuit During June 10 Conference


Supreme Court justices will discuss whether to take up a case against Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies during their weekly conference on June 10, with a decision on whether to accept the petition from anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions likely coming as soon as June 14.

SFFA petitioned the Supreme Court to grant a writ of certiorari and hear the case on Feb. 25, and Harvard filed a brief in opposition on May 17.

The lawsuit was initially filed against the University in 2014, alleging that the school’s race-conscious admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants. SFFA argues the policies violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating “on the grounds of race, color, or national origin.”

The Massachusetts District Court ruled in Harvard’s favor in October 2019, ruling Harvard’s use of race-conscious admissions is legal, and the First Circuit Court affirmed the previous ruling in November 2020.


The Court updated the case’s docket Tuesday to reflect that the case had been added to the discuss list for the June 10 conference. At least one justice must elect to confer about a particular case in conference before the case is added to the discuss list.

Cases distributed for conference may be taken up if four of the nine Justices vote in favor of granting cert. Typically on the Monday morning following each conference, the Court publishes an order list announcing cases which have been granted cert, and successful petitions are added to the Court’s docket.

The Court typically grants certiorari and hears oral argument in about 80 cases out of the 7,000 to 8,000 petitions filed each term — about one percent — typically hearing cases argued in a U.S. Court of Appeals or the highest Court in a given state. Terms extend from the first Monday of October to the following year, and the Court is typically in recess from late June to the early July until the first Monday of October, when it begins to hear oral arguments for cases on the docket.

Harvard’s brief in opposition to SFFA’s petition argues that SFFA has produced “no persuasive evidence” against Harvard and establishes “no unsettled issue” that merits review.

“There is no circuit split to resolve, and this Court rarely grants certiorari to review the application of settled law to a particular set of facts,” the brief reads. “Where, as here, two lower courts have made ‘concurrent findings,’ this Court will not overturn them absent ‘a very obvious and exceptional showing of error,’ … a showing SFFA cannot remotely make. ”

SFFA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Legal experts said in previous interviews that the Supreme Court may hear the case and declare the University’s admissions policies illegal due to its current conservative composition.

—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at