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4 Former Clarence Thomas Clerks Form Legal Team to Challenge Harvard’s Admissions Policy

[caption id="attachment_10127" align="alignnone" width="620"] Justice Clarence Thomas (2015). Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/ ALM [/caption] The legal team challenging Harvard’s admissions policy as racially discriminatory will be comprised of four former law clerks to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s only African-American member. Adam Mortara and John Hughes, both partners at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, are joining William Consovoy and Patrick Strawbridge, partners at Consovoy McCarthy Park, in the case Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. The lawyers declined to comment. Strawbridge filed a motion on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking pro hac vice admission for Mortara and Hughes to appear in the trial set to begin Oct. 15. A team from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr represents Harvard, which has denied it discriminates against any group in the admissions process. The plaintiffs claim Harvard’s policy discriminates against Asian-American students in favor of African-American and other applicants, in violation of civil rights laws. Mortara clerked for Thomas in 2002 and 2003, and Hughes did so from 2005 to 2006. Consovoy and Strawbridge clerked for Thomas in 2008 and 2009. Mortara clerked for Thomas during the term in which the court issued the landmark affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger. The majority ruled that “narrowly tailored” use of race in university admissions was constitutional. In a partial dissent, Thomas expressed his long-standing opposition to affirmative action. “I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators,” he wrote. “A university may not maintain a high admission standard and grant exemptions to favored races. … Racial discrimination is not a permissible solution to the self-inflicted wounds of this elitist admissions policy.” Thomas voiced similar views in Fisher v. University of Texas, litigation that was backed by the Project on Fair Representation, the same organization that is behind the challenge to Harvard and, in a separate suit, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In the University of Texas case, the justices in 2016 upheld policies that permitted the consideration of race in admission decisions. Thomas has drawn from his own experience at Yale Law School in asserting that affirmative action programs stigmatize black students, though starting in 2011 he began a reconciliation with the school.   Read more: Justice Thomas Ventures Beyond Elite Schools to Fill Clerkship Posts Trump's Justice Dept. Takes Swipe at Harvard in Admissions Lawsuit Will University Affirmative Action Policies Survive a Kennedy-Less Supreme Court? Harvard, Citing Justices' Affirmative-Action Ruling, Defends Admissions Policy Justices Thomas and Gorsuch Call for Curbs on Federal Agency Power