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Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 9, 2015

STUDENTS FOR FAIR ADMISSIONS, INC., Plaintiff, Appellee,
v.
PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE (HARVARD CORPORATION), Defendant, Appellee; SARAH COLE; FADHAL MOORE; ARJINI KUMARI NAWAL; ITZEL VASQUEZ-RODRIGUEZ; KEYANNA WIGGLESWORTH; M.B.; K.C.; Y.D.; G.E.; A.G.; I.G.; R.H.; J.L.; R.S., Movants, Appellants

Page 473

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Allison D. Burroughs, U.S. District Judge.

Taylor Owings, with whom Lawrence E. Culleen, Nancy L. Perkins, Steven L. Mayer, Arnold & Porter, LLP, Jon M. Greenbaum, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Ivá n Espinoza-Madrigal, and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, were on brief, for movants-appellants.

Seth P. Waxman, with whom Felicia H. Ellsworth, Eric F. Fletcher, Paul R.Q. Wolfson, Daniel Winik, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, were on brief, for defendant-appellee.

Patrick Strawbridge, with whom Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC, Paul M. Sanford, and Burns & Levinson LLP, were on brief, for plaintiff-appellee.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Lynch and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 474

KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises out of a lawsuit brought by an organization that calls itself Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. (" SFFA" ) challenging Harvard College's consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions decisions. An opposing group of current and prospective Harvard students (" Students" ) who claim to be benefited by the school's current practice sought to intervene, over the objection of both parties, in order to advocate " vigorously" for the defeat of SFFA's claims. The district court denied Students' motion to intervene, instead granting Students leave to file amicus briefs. Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard Coll., 308 F.R.D. 39, 52-53 (D. Mass. 2015). Students now appeal, arguing that the district court either committed an error of law or abused its discretion in denying their motion to intervene. For the following reasons, we affirm the district court's ruling.

I. Background

The underlying lawsuit in which Students seek to intervene commenced on November 17, 2014, when SFFA filed a complaint with the district court alleging that Harvard's undergraduate admissions policy is racially and ethnically discriminatory, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Harvard admits, indeed proclaims, that it does consider an applicant's race, among many other factors, in deciding whether to admit the applicant. Harvard says that it considers race in order to increase " student body diversity, including racial diversity." It denies that this consideration is unlawful.

During the early stages of discovery, Students filed a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) and (b), seeking to intervene in this lawsuit either by right or by permission of the court. The district court denied the motion to intervene, holding that although Students' motion was " timely," Students failed to satisfy the remaining requirements of Rule 24(a) and (b). Students do not appeal the denial of their motion for permissive intervention under Rule 24(b). Rather, they focus this appeal on the district court's denial of their motion to intervene by right under Rule 24(a)(2).

II. Analysis

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ...


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