Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Attorney Defends Affirmative Action

Attorney Maureen Mahoney, who led the University of ichigan’s defense of affirmative action before the Supreme Court last year, analyzed the high court’s ruling during a lecture Wednesday afternoon in ICC.

Mahoney spoke as part of a week-long dedication to the 50th anniversary of the court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The case addressed two fundamental questions, ahoney said – the importance and relevance of race and the question of a race-neutral alternative to affirmative action.

The Supreme Court concluded Michigan Law School’s affirmative action case, Grutter v. Bollinger, which determined in a 5-4 ruling that Michigan’s policies were constitutional and that race could be used as a deciding factor in admissions to public universities.

In the related Gratz v. Bollinger case, the court struck down a rigid point-based system used in Michigan’s undergraduate admissions process that awarded points to members of certain under-represented racial groups.

Mahoney cited the high volume of outside briefs filed by universities and corporations in explaining the importance and relevance of race in college admissions.

A race-neutral alternative should be considered only as a last resort, Mahoney said, referencing the University of California at Berkeley’s law school admissions process as an example of such a failed attempt.

Berkeley’s law school used socioeconomic status as a deciding factor in the admissions process in order to foster diversity on campus, but Mahoney said that she felt this approach had failed because poor white applicants outnumbered poor minority applicants six to one.

Mahoney said she also objected to the interpretation of the word “quota,” which received considerable attention during the cases against Michigan.

“The wrong definition of quota was being used,” she said. “Quota is actually a fixed number, percentage or range that is not responsive to an application pool but rather remains constant year after year.”

Mahoney described the amount of attention that the cases drew.

“The U.S. president held a televised address to express his opinions on this case, which hadn’t been done before,” Mahoney said.

The Michigan cases were the only cases, aside from Bush v. Gore, for which audio recordings of the oral arguments were publicly released.

“Getting tickets for this case was impossible since people were sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building from Friday to Tuesday, the day of the proceedings, to get a spot,” Mahoney said. “Afterwards, I even got eight bouquets of flowers from people I didn’t know and tons of fan mail, which a lawyer doesn’t often get.”

Georgetown’s Supreme Court society, On the Docket, sponsored the event.

Founder Philip Fujimoto (COL ’07) said he was impressed with the speech.

“Mahoney was brutally honest and truthful about what it takes to be an attorney and take a side on an issue as delicate and constitutionally complex as affirmative action,” Fujimoto said. “She didn’t dance around any questions posed to her on the issue.”

“I think that the students who attended realized that not all lawyers are fork-tongued – some like Mahoney are down to earth, real people,” he added.

In the past, Mahoney has represented a variety of organizations ranging from the House of Representatives to the Saudi Arabian government.

Mahoney has argued 12 cases in the high court and continues to take on challenges. She currently has several petitions to have cases considered by the Supreme Court.

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