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DOJ Repudiates Trump Administration Initiative by Abandoning Discrimination Lawsuit Against Yale


NEW HAVEN, CT - APRIL 15: New Haven, home to Yale University, boasts many cultural offerings that attract visitors to the city.

Continuing the trend set by President Joe Biden’s flurry of executive orders aimed at reversing his predecessor’s executive policies and mandates, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped a Trump-era lawsuit accusing Yale University of unlawfully discriminating on the basis of race in its admissions process.

Attorneys representing the DOJ Civil Rights Division told the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on Wednesday that the department was dropping the case via a two-sentence Notice of Voluntary Dismissal.

The lawsuit—which alleged that Yale violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against “racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular most Asian and White applicants”—stood as a paragon of the Trump administration’s efforts to combat affirmative action programs.

The original complaint, filed in October 2020, was the result of a formal complaint filed by a coalition of over 130 Asian-American organizations about Yale’s allegedly discriminatory practices.  They asserted that the university’s “holistic” approach to evaluating applicants promoted race-based discrimination.

“Yale claims that its race discrimination is necessary to admit sufficient numbers of racially-favored applicants, mostly Black and Hispanic applicants, Yale signals that racially-favored applicants cannot compete against Asian and White applicants,” the suit stated.

As Law&Crime discussed previously, race may legally be used as a “plus factor” in narrow admissions decisions after an applicant’s other qualifications are reviewed and ranked. Using race as  “predominant criteria,” however, has potential to illegally disadvantage otherwise deserving applicants.

The case was dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning that no final determination was reached regarding the legality of Yale’s admissions process.

A DOJ spokesperson said that despite seeking the dismissal, the department will continue to review the matter “through its administrative process,” according to the Yale News.

“The Department has dismissed its lawsuit in light of all available facts, circumstances, and legal developments, including the November 2020 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejecting a challenge to Harvard University’s consideration of race in its admissions practices,” the spokesperson said.

The university praised the decision to drop the case, which it had previously said was “meritless,” in a statement Wednesday.

“Yale is gratified that the U.S. Justice Department has dropped its lawsuit challenging Yale College’s admissions practices,” spokesperson Karen Peart said.

“Our admissions process has allowed Yale College to assemble an unparalleled student body, which is distinguished by its academic excellence and diversity. Yale has steadfastly maintained that its process complies fully with Supreme Court precedent, and we are confident that the Justice Department will agree.”

Read the DOJ’s filing below.

US v Yale-Notice Vol Dismiss 2-3-20 by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via  Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.