The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled on March 26, 2014 that Northwestern University football players are university employees and therefore may hold an election to determine whether to form a union. Northwestern has appealed this decision. Click here for full text of NLRB Ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Fisher v. University of Texas this morning. Attached is a copy of the Court’s decision along with a copy of Stanford's press release. In essence, it’s a narrow 7-1 decision, with the majority opinion authored by Justice Kennedy. The Court holds that the Court of Appeals did not apply the correct standard of strict scrutiny in the case, and therefore vacates the Court of Appeals’ decision and remands the case for further proceedings so that the University of Texas’ admission process can be considered under the correct standard. Notably, the Court recognizes that its prior decisions have endorsed the conclusion that attaining a diverse student body may be a compelling state interest: “The attainment of a diverse student body . . . serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes.” (p. 6) In Grutter and Gratz, the Court reaffirmed that “obtaining the educational benefits of ‘student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.’” (p. 7) Grutter endorsed Justice Powell’s conclusion in Bakke that “the attainment of a diverse student body . . . is a constitutionally permissible goal for an institution of higher education.” (p. 9) “[T]he District Court and Court of Appeals were correct in finding that Grutter calls for deference to the University’s conclusion, ‘”based on its experience and expertise,”’ . . . that a diverse student body would serve its educational goals.”’” (p. 9) "There is disagreement about whether Grutter was consistent with the principles of equal protection in approving this compelling interest in diversity. But the parties here do not ask the Court to revisit that aspect of Grutter's holding." (p. 9) However, the Court concludes that the Court of Appeals misapplied the strict scrutiny standard by deferring to the University of Texas’ good faith in using race in its admissions process: “The District Court and Court of Appeals confined the strict scrutiny inquiry in too narrow a way by deferring to the University’s good faith in its use of racial classifications and affirming the grant of summary judgment on that basis.” (p. 12) “In order for judicial review to be meaningful, a university must make a showing that its plan is narrowly tailored to achieve the only interest that this Court has approved in this context: the benefits of a student body diversity that ‘encompasses a . . . broa[d] array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element.’” (p. 13) Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion also echoes a theme that he has expressed in his prior opinions, that the availability of race-neutral alternatives must be considered: "The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity. (p. 11.) The Court’s decision will undoubtedly be the subject of extensive media coverage later today and thereafter, but I thought you might be interested in seeing the Court’s decision now. Please feel free to forward this to any of your colleagues who might be interested.
Today Stanford filed an amicus brief in the Author's Guild v. HathiTrust litigation. Stanford submits that preservation of works through digitization is a fair use under section 107 of the Copyright Act. Digital technology enables the faithful reproduction and preservation of library collections to ensure that works are protected against catastrophe and decay over time, so that information is available for future generations of scholars. To read Stanford's full brief, click here.
At a recent Stanford Faculty Women's Forum panel at the Black Community Center, Tom Fenner, speaking in his individual capacity and not for the university, law professor Deborah Rhode, and history professor Allyson Hobbs discussed how a ruling against the University of Texas at Austin might affect Stanford. The Clayman Institute for Gender Research article on the discussion is available here.
The HathiTrust is a digital repository housed at the University of Michigan, which holds millions of digitized library works from the collections of supporting insitutions including University of Michigan, University of California, Cornell, University of Wisconsin and Indiana University. The works were largely digitized by Google through its Google Library Partner Program. The Author's Guild and others sued the supporting institutions of the HathiTrust claiming massive copyright infringement. In its ruling, the Southern District of New York found the following: 1) it is both a fair use and in support of Section 121 of the Copyright Act to provide digital works to print-disabled users; 2) indexing for searching purposes is a transformative fair use; and 3) Section 108 of the Copyright Act does not limit libraries' reliance on fair use: "fair use does not undermine Section 108, but rather supplements it." This decision supports research and education by upholding the transformative use of technology to provide better access to information. The plaintiffs may appeal the decision to the Second Circuit. The full opinion is available at http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2...
On October 10, 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a challenge to the affirmative action admissions policies of the University of Texas. A copy of the transcript of the oral argument is here.
The brief asks the Court to reaffirm its holding in Grutter v. Bollinger that diversity is a compelling interest, and that universities may pursue diversity without relying upon ostensibly race-neutral alternatives that would undermine other important aspects of a university’s mission. The brief also explains the role of diversity in educating leaders at the amici universities. The brief disagrees with petitioner’s argument for a “strong-basis-in-evidence” standard to judge race-conscious university admissions, which is inappropriate and would seriously impair a university’s ability to use its educational judgment and experience in deciding which students to admit. The brief also noted that given the large number of qualified applicants to whom admission must be denied and the non-quantifiable aspects of the individualized, holistic review performed by universities like Stanford, a change in the law would invite significant litigation from disappointed applicants and judicial intrusion into university admissions.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and struck down a provision relating to the expansion of Medicaid. The opinion is available here.
On November 1, 2010 the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the Stanford University v. Roche Molecular et al. case. This case is a patent infringement lawsuit brought against Roche involving three Stanford patents for monitoring the effectiveness of HIV treatments that were developed with federal funding through the National Institutes of Health. In the course of the litigation it was discovered that one of the Stanford researchers signed a "Visitor Confidentiality Agreement" (VCA) at a company that was later acquired by Roche. The VCA purported to assign all of the Stanford researcher's patent rights in anything developed "as a consequence" of the time he spent at the company. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that this assignment was effective to transfer the Stanford researcher's rights to Roche resulting in the dismissal of the case. The issue on which the Supreme Court granted review is whether the Federal Circuit's ruling is in violation of the Bayh-Dole Act, which regulates the ownership and transfer of patent rights in technology resulting from federal funding. The Office of the Solicitor General of the United States filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting Stanford's position as did over 40 major research universities and several university associations such as the Association of American Universities, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of Public Land Grant Universities, Council on Government Relations and Association of University Technology Managers. The Supreme Court issued a decision for this case on June 6, 2011.