Sarah Wake Quoted in Law360 About High Court Affirmative-Action Case

June 14, 2022

Law360 interviewed McGuireWoods partner Sarah Wake for a June 1, 2022, story examining whether a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion rights signals that precedents may be dropped in other high-profile cases, including a challenge to affirmative-action admissions policies at two universities.

The leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization signals the court’s willingness to overturn abortion rights established and affirmed in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The leak came on the same day — May 2, 2022 — that Students for Fair Admissions filed its opening brief in a case challenging affirmative-action admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. The schools hope to flip precedent established by Grutter v. Bollinger, which centered on the University of Michigan.

Although previous attempts to challenge race-conscious university admissions policies have failed, Students for Fair Admissions is making its argument in front of a high court supermajority that appears to be willing to “swing big,” Law360 reported. Wake said the universities face an uphill battle convincing the Supreme Court that there is value for all students in achieving a diverse student body.

“The Dobbs draft certainly suggests the court is willing to depart from well-established and longstanding precedent,” said Wake, a labor and employment partner. “Schools should be looking at their admissions practices now with their legal teams to plan for the possibility that Grutter will be overturned.”

Wake returned to McGuireWoods in 2021 after more than eight years in the higher education sector, most recently with Northwestern University’s Office of General Counsel. She recently co-authored “Supreme Court to Weigh Limited Use of Race in Admissions, Antitrust Case Against Elite Schools,” a McGuireWoods legal alert discussing the admissions case.