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Louisiana's incoming and first African-American chief justice headlines race in higher education symposium

October 26, 2012

The Honorable Bernette Johnson, current associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court and future Chief Justice, will give keynote presentation Nov. 9.

The Honorable Bernette Johnson, current associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court and future Chief Justice next year, will deliver the keynote address for a Nov. 9 symposium on race in higher education hosted by the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and the Journal of Public Interest Law.

"Narratives of Equality - Reflections on Equal Protection and Diversity"takes place at the College of Law, Room 308 from 12:30-6:15 p.m. The program is free and open to the public and is part of Loyola Week’s Centennial celebrations. Law students may earn skills credit for attendance.

The symposium will explore issues involving equal protection and in particular, issues of diversity. The first panel will explore litigation involving equal protection and Louisiana’s crimes against nature by solicitation statute. The keynote address and other panels will explore the role of diversity and race conscious admissions in legal education. College of Law alumni, professors and students will explore “Narratives of Diversity from the Past-Present-Future.”

In the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court approved consideration of an applicant’s race as one of many factors that universities and law schools could consider in deciding whether to admit the applicant. This year, the Supreme Court will consider again the constitutionality of the use of race in admissions in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. In 2008, Abigail Fisher filed suit against the University of Texas alleging that UT’s use of race in its admission policies was unconstitutional. The United State Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that UT’s admissions policy was constitutional under Grutter. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case earlier in October. If the Supreme Court overrules the Grutter case, it could result in an end to any consideration of race in student admissions in affirmative action policies at U.S. public universities.

M. Isabel Medina, J.D., the Ferris Family Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola and one of the day’s moderators, says that the Supreme Court has fairly consistently stated that standards applicable to public institutions under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendment, also apply to private institutions under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

“Private institutions like our own are likely to be impacted by whatever ruling the Supreme Court issues in the Fisher case. The symposium will explore issues of diversity through the prism of personal narratives by law alumni, law students and law professors,” Medina said.

For more information, contact Professor Medina.

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