Law School Admissions Legal, Judge Rules in 'Reverse Discrimination' Lawsuit

U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly ruled June 5 that the University of Washington School of Law did not break any laws in a highly publicized "reverse discrimination" lawsuit involving three white students who were denied admission during the 1990s.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights sued the law school in 1997 on behalf of Katuria Smith, '94; Angela Rock; and Michael Pyle. The three claimed that if they had not been white, the law school would have admitted them under its policies of the mid-1990s.

Zilly wrote in his decision that probably none of the three would have been admitted to the UW even under a race-neutral policy. In 1994, for example, the UW received 2,552 applications and enrolled a class of 187.

The law school considered race as one of many factors in its admissions process until 1998, when Initiative 200 banned state agencies from giving preferences to women or minorities in education, hiring or awarding contracts (see "The Road Ahead," March 1999).

The case of Katuria Smith, who came from a low-income family and had to work her way through school, became a campaign issue during the fight over I-200.

Court documents said Smith had a 3.28 GPA and scored in the 94th percentile in the Law School Assessment Test (LSAT) when she applied in 1994. She later attended Seattle University Law School and is now practicing in New York.

Rock, who was denied admission in 1995, had a 3.65 GPA and an LSAT score in the 93rd percentile. She graduated from Georgetown University Law School and now practices law in Las Vegas.

Pyle applied in 1996 with a 3.15 GPA and an LSAT score in the 97th percentile and was denied admission. Three years later, the UW law school admitted him when he reapplied, but he pursued another career.

Lawyers originally filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all white applicants in 1994-96, but a 1999 ruling limited the scope of the legal action to only the three plaintiffs.

Michael Rossman, the general counsel at the Center for Individual Rights, says the three will appeal Zilly's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco.

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