Prominent plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and the Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA) filed a friend-of-court brief today on behalf of youth advocates and experts in educational access. This brief contributes to the records of two cases currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, No. 19-2005 (U.S. March 1, 2021) and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina, et al., No. 21-2263 (U.S. November 15, 2021).

The fifteen amici describe compelling research showing how the life experiences of students contribute to the skills they bring to succeed in college, and how life experiences related to racial identity can reveal attributes which might otherwise be omitted from myopic review of resume entries, bereft of race-conscious consideration. Amici also describe the negative impact of baked in racial disparities in public elementary and secondary school funding on the applications from youth of color. The brief concludes that if colleges truly want the most qualified candidates with such key attributes as maturity, resilience, intellectual curiosity, honesty, and motivation, it is imperative that they be permitted to take into account the race-related life experiences that reflect such attributes. Amici call upon the Supreme Court to affirm the decisions of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Middle District of North Carolina.

Signatories to the brief include the following members and allies of the Education Civil Rights Alliance: Civitas ChildLaw Center; Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues; Education Deans for Justice and Equity; Feminist Majority Foundation; Intercultural Development Research Association; National Center for Youth Law; National Immigration Law Center; Native American Disability Law Center; Peer Defense Project; Public Counsel; Shriver Center on Poverty Law; Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture; Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Teach For America; and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.


“Competitive colleges want talented and diverse student bodies. Without race-conscious admissions, that goal is impossible both because of the inequities in public K-12 education and because of the centrality of race to the identities of young people of color,” said Miriam A. Rollin, an attorney at NCYL and Director of the Education Civil Rights Alliance. “I am proud to have brought together a range of Education Civil Rights Alliance members and allies – including the National Center for Youth Law – to ensure that the United States Supreme Court understands the important role that race-conscious admissions must continue to play in post-secondary education.”

“All students should be able to share their complete and authentic selves, including their racial and ethnic background, when they apply to college,” said Celina Moreno, J.D., President and CEO of the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA). “A holistic admissions process should not censor any aspect of a student’s identity and is critical to ensure all young people have a fair opportunity to achieve their highest potential.”

“Our identities overlap,” said Maryam Salmanova, youth leader at the Peer Defense Project. “We cannot communicate our truth if higher education requires us to separate and hide key aspects of our personhood.”

“Education is the engine of equality and opportunity in the United States,” said Tara Ford at Senior Counsel at Public Counsel. “Public Counsel will always stand alongside students for equal access to education.”

“Education is an essential part of the very fabric of our society,” said Marja Plater, the John E. Nolan Youth Justice Counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “Allowing colleges and universities to consider race as one part of a comprehensive admissions policy, ensures that the best and brightest students from diverse backgrounds with varied experiences have an opportunity to continue to pursue their education, which not only benefits those students but also the college or university’s student body as a whole.”

“At Lieff Cabraser, we are deeply invested in supporting equity, including at all levels of education,” said Kelly M. Dermody, the Managing Partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office. “We are proud to join our colleagues in the youth justice and educational access community on this important issue.”

Information about Authors:

Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA): ECRA is convened by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL). It is a diverse and experienced group of organizers, educator organizations, community groups, professional associations, and civil rights organizations committed to protecting the civil rights of marginalized students.

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP: Lieff Cabraser is one of the country’s largest and most successful firms exclusively representing plaintiffs in civil litigation, having secured verdicts or settlements worth over $124 billion for clients nationwide. With over 100 attorneys, the firm has led some of the most significant litigation of the last decade, including the VW clean diesel emissions case, which resulted in over $15 billion for VW owners (In re: Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2672 (Northern District of California federal court)); the CARES Act litigation on behalf of incarcerated individuals and their families resulting in over $1.5 billion in cash benefits (Scholl v. Mnuchin, 4:20-cv-05309-PJH (Northern District of California federal court)); and the high-tech cold-calling wage conspiracy case alleging an agreement among prominent technology companies to not poach each other’s employees, which resulted in settlements totaling $435 million (In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509-LJK (Northern District of California federal court)).

For more information:

Kelly M. Dermody
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111-3339
Telephone: (415) 956-1000 ext. 3333

Miriam A. Rollin
Director, Education Civil Rights Alliance
Attorney, National Center for Youth Law
1212 Broadway, Suite 600
Oakland, CA 94612
Telephone: (510) 835-8098

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