The high-stakes and high-profile Harvard admissions trial may stretch well into 2019, per new details announced in a Wednesday court order.
The trial, the latest development in a four-year-old lawsuit brought by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, kicked off in a Boston courthouse on Oct. 15 and wrapped up three weeks later on Nov. 2. But it's not entirely over — per the court order, Judge Allison D. Burroughs will hear an additional set of arguments from both Harvard and plaintiff Students for Fair Admissions on Feb. 13.
The University and anti-affirmative action advocacy group SFFA will also file several new sets of documents in court in December and January. Wednesday's court order did not detail the exact substance of the slated filings.
Burroughs will consider new information presented in the hearing and filings as she prepares to deliver a final ruling some time in the next few months. She is the only judge working on the case, which she heard without a jury.
SFFA first brought suit against Harvard four years ago, charging that the College discriminates against Asian-American applicants in its admissions process. The suit alleges that Harvard's admissions officers systematically assign qualified Asian Americans lower personal scores in order to unfairly deny them admission. Harvard has vehemently rejected these allegations and has argued its race-conscious admissions policies are necessary to achieve diversity in its student body.
The trial may have far-reaching implications for the future of affirmative action in the United States. Experts have said that, whatever Burroughs decides, the disappointed party will likely appeal until the case reaches the Supreme Court. If the suit comes before the nation's highest court, the newly conservative body is likely to rule for SFFA, perhaps imperiling race-conscious admissions in America.
Documents unearthed during the trial — as well as hundreds of hours of testimony from top Harvard administrators — shone a spotlight on previously secret details of the College's admissions process. These details included information about how the College gives special consideration to the children of donors and what factors cause admissions officers to give the nod to certain applicants — while hitting pause on others.
The next set of filings is expected to come on Dec. 19. Attorneys for SFFA and Harvard have agreed the submissions should total 75 pages or fewer. The lawyers will then submit rebuttals to each others’ filings on Jan. 23.
The court order also states that outside parties can again submit amicus briefs, which are due Jan. 9.
—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @delanofranklin_.
—Staff writer Samuel W. Zwickel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @samuel_zwickel.
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