Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law & Partners Present Closing Arguments in Remedial Trial
Baltimore, MD – Today, over ten years after the initial complaint was filed, a federal district court in Maryland heard closing arguments in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland Higher Education Commission. This case represents one of the most significant higher education desegregation cases in the last two decades.
The case confirms Maryland’s affirmative obligation to desegregate its Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In October 2013, Judge Catherine Blake held that unnecessary program duplication between Maryland’s HBCUs and Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs) perpetuates segregation at the HBCUs. In February 2017, the court conducted a six-week bench trial on remedies.
The Coalition, which is comprised of students and alumni of Maryland’s HBCUs, is calling for the State to address its failure to dismantle the vestiges of segregation in its higher education system. The Coalition is represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.
“For students across Maryland, the goals of Brown vs Board of Education remain unfulfilled. We are fighting this case because we know that HBCUs play a critical role in the educational landscape of our country, and with proper support and funding from the state, they can attract racially diverse pools of students,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We eagerly await a decision from the court which will hopefully place Maryland on a long overdue path to racial desegregation.”
“Judge Blake has already determined that unnecessary program duplication contributed to a dual structure within Maryland’s system of higher education,” said Michael Jones of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, one of the attorneys for the Coalition. “Additionally, Judge Blake explicitly stated that remedies would be required. It is incredulous that the State, after all this time, continues to deny liability and argues that no remedy will desegregate Maryland’s HBCUs.”
In order to dismantle the dual system of higher education in Maryland, Plaintiffs propose that the Court establish distinct institutional identities at the HBCUs comprised of unique and high-demand academic programs or degrees. Plaintiffs recommend a number of academic niches at the HBCUs to consist of new and transferred programs and the enhancement of current programs. In addition, the Coalition proposes a revision of the State’s program approval process to require the State to address both existing as well as future unnecessary duplication.
The State submits that absolutely no remedy is required here because there is no evidence that unique or high-demand programs have the potential to desegregate Maryland’s HBCUs. Even so, the State did file a new post-trial remedial proposal that purports to diversify the HBCUs through enrollment management, student aid, campus inclusion initiatives, and summer programs. Notably absent from the State’s proposal is any recommendation to address the massive programmatic imbalance and ongoing duplication of programs between the HBCUs and TWIs.
“I am proud to be a member of the Coalition, and I am proud of our lawyers,” said David Burton, President of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. “HBCUs have always been forced to do more with less, and it is my sincere hope that Judge Blake’s remedial order will finally make sure that Maryland’s HBCUs receive the resources they need to attract and educate students of all races.”
“As a Coppin State University student, I am disappointed in the State of Maryland for the duplication of academic programs and inadequate funding between HBCUs and TWIs. My hope is that Maryland will finally fulfill its commitment to all of the students attending HBCUs,” said Brandon Walker.
An opinion in the remedial trial is expected in the coming months.
About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; economic justice; voting; education and criminal justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.
About Kirkland & Ellis LLP:
Kirkland & Ellis LLP (www.kirkland.com) is a 1,900-attorney law firm representing global clients in litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration matters, private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, restructuring, and intellectual property matters. The Firm has offices in Beijing, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C., and recently announced it would open an office in Boston in June 2017.
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law