A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit against Harvard and the Harvard Law Review by groups that claim they want to restore “meritocracy” to American higher education because their suit failed to provide the most minimal of details that even a first-year law student should have included.
Still, US District Court Judge Leo Sorokin dismissed the lawsuit by two Texas-based groups – Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences and the Coalition for Meritocracy at Universities – without prejudice, which means they have 30 days to ask him for permission to file an amended complaint that somehow answers his fairly withering criticisms, in particular what he said was their initial complaint’s failure to name, or at least profile, even a single person who had actually been harmed by the law review’s alleged discrimination.
That lack of “standing,” or proof that an actual person has actually been harmed, proved to be the lawsuit’s key failing, Sorokin wrote in his ruling today. Sorokin agreed with Harvard and the law review that simply stating that members of the groups include white students who plan to submit articles even though they know they face rejection because they are translucent and male isn’t a good enough argument for a federal court case.
Sorokin compared the groups’ filing unfavorably with the filings of another group suing Harvard over alleged admissions discrimination. At least that group could point to specific people it claims were harmed by the way Harvard determines whom to admit, Sorokin wrote. But in the case before him:
The plaintiffs have not supplied “reasonably definite factual allegations” identifying any of their members – information readily and uniquely available to the plaintiffs; this failure dooms the Amended Complaint. …
Their failure to supply even the slightest description of any member who might satisfy the prerequisites for standing [under the constitution] – including concrete and particularized, actual or imminent injury redressable by a favorable decision in this case – requires dismissal of the Amended Complaint in its entirety.
Sorokin could have ended his ruling there, but said he “deems it prudent” to knock down the groups’ other arguments before they waste any further time trying to incorporate them into a new complaint.
He said the groups failed to cite any specific examples of actual discrimination by the law review, either in how it selects students to work on it or how it selects which articles to publish. Asking prospective law-review students what their gender and race are by itself does not prove anybody was discriminated against, he wrote.
Further, just as the plaintiffs have made no attempt to describe HLRA’s article-selection practices, the Amended Complaint likewise contains no facts—let alone sufficient facts – to illuminate the conclusory assertion that HLS (“along with nearly every law school in the United States”) discriminates on the basis of gender and race when hiring faculty.
He added the groups also failed to prove that the law review takes federal money that would subject it to federal anti-discrimination laws; the fact that some students might be receiving federal student aid is not enough. Ditto for Harvard, because the anti-discrimination law the group cited in complaining about the school relates specifically to “employment” and students working on the law review are not “employees” in the way the law defines the term, he wrote.