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DOHERTY v. RUTGERS SCH. OF LAW-NEWARK

April 18, 1980

ROBERT L. DOHERTY, Plaintiff,
v.
RUTGERS SCHOOL OF LAW-NEWARK et al., Defendants and ASIAN AMERICAN LAW STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, TOM LEE CHING CHIU, and ASIAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND, INC.; Defendants-intervenors and ASSOCIATION OF BLACK LAW STUDENTS, ARLENE MUNN and ALBERT FOSTER; Defendants-intervenors and ASSOCIATION LATIN AMERICAN LAW STUDENTS OF RUTGERS LAW SCHOOL-NEWARK and EULADIO SANTIAGO and HELIDA PACHECO, individually; Defendants-intervenors and THE STUDENT BAR ASSOCIATION OF RUTGERS SCHOOL OF LAW-NEWARK FEDERACION LATINO AMERICANOS, LAZARO ALVAREZ, ANTHONY GARTMOND and IRIS MUNIZ; Defendants-intervenors and THE WOMEN'S CAUCUS OF THE RUTGERS SCHOOL OF LAW, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY, Defendants-intervenors



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WHIPPLE

Plaintiff in this case invites the Court to invalidate on federal constitutional and statutory grounds a minority student admissions program at the Rutgers University School of Law-Newark (hereinafter "Rutgers" or "the law school"). Defendants urge the Court to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on account of plaintiff's alleged want of standing or, in the alternative, to impose a protective order governing certain discovery sought by plaintiff. For the reasons which follow, the Court agrees with defendants that plaintiff lacks standing to assert his claims, and is compelled to decline plaintiff's invitation to explore the import of Bakke as it might apply to this law school.

The procedural history of this case is somewhat involved. Plaintiff Robert L. Doherty (hereinafter "Doherty" or "plaintiff") is a white male who applied and was refused admission to the law school for the academic year commencing in the fall of 1979. In September 1979 he filed suit against Rutgers University, the State of New Jersey and various admissions officers, including minority admissions program officers. Since the original complaint was filed the State of New Jersey was ordered dismissed and various student organizations, who claimed that their interests in the continued vitality of a minority admissions program would not be adequately protected by the original defendants, were granted leave to intervene as defendants (hereinafter "defendant-intervenors").

 Plaintiff's original complaint charged that defendants have adopted and maintained an admissions program which violates his rights under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and under the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act of 1972, 31 U.S.C. § 1242. Subject matter jurisdiction was asserted under 28 U.S.C. § 1343, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e and 31 U.S.C. § 1242. Defendant Rutgers and the individual defendants moved to dismiss, arguing in their memorandum in essence that because plaintiff's academic credentials were insufficient to gain him admission to Rutgers Law School whether or not the school had a minority admissions program, his alleged injury in being denied admission was not causally related to the existence of the minority program, and that therefore he lacked standing to challenge any aspect of the school's admissions policy.

 Before the hearing on defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff filed an amended complaint, asserting violations of his rights under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 et seq., under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, under the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1703, and under Article 1, paragraph 5 of the New Jersey Constitution. Defendants Rutgers and the individuals submitted a supplemental memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss, raising essentially the same grounds as raised in the earlier memorandum. The matter was set down for oral argument.

 In their memoranda and supporting affidavits Rutgers and the individual defendants argued for plaintiff's lack of standing by detailing the admissions procedure at the Law School. The admissions procedure for the year 1978-79 worked as follows.

 Applicants to the law school in 1978 and 1979 received copies of the 1977-1979 Bulletin of the Law School as part of the application materials. This publication describes the steps of the admissions process. Among other things it states that the median scores of the classes entering under the regular admissions program during the then most recent five-year period were in the 3.40-3.50 range on a 4.0 scale for the undergraduate grade point averages ("GPA") and in the 640-650 range on an 800 scale for the standardized law school admissions tests ("LSAT"). The bulletin also explains the school's minority admissions' program, which is described as a plan designed to increase the number of minorities in the school through emphasis on less objective factors in the selection process. The concept of "minority" in the minority admissions program includes economically disadvantaged whites. Approximately thirty percent of each entering class is comprised of students admitted through the minority student program.

 The form of application to the law school contains a series of questions designed to determine whether a particular individual is eligible to be considered under the minority admissions program. It is not necessary that a candidate answer these questions in order to be admitted. If a candidate does not answer them, the application is considered solely under the regular admissions program criteria. If a candidate answers the questions relating to minority characteristics the application materials are forwarded to the minority admissions committee for its review of the applicant's eligibility for consideration under the minority program. If the applicant is determined not to be eligible for consideration under the minority program the application is returned to the regular admissions committee for its review of the application. Applications determined to be eligible for minority admissions consideration remain with the minority admissions committee for the final decision as to whether the applicant is admitted.

 The regular admissions program has two stages. Stage one may fairly be regarded as the wholly objective stage, and it has three parts. First, the applicant's GPA is multiplied by 322. This multiplication effectively weights the GPA so that it constitutes approximately 60% of the score from the LSAT. Second, the figure which is 322 multiplied by the applicant's GPA is added to his or her LSAT score. The law school bulletin states that LSAT scores more than three years old are not considered. Finally, something called a competition bonus factor figure may be added to the sum of the two aforementioned figures. This factor has nothing to do with the applicant per se but is determined by comparing the average LSAT score from the applicant's undergraduate college with the national average LSAT score. If the average LSAT score from the applicant's undergraduate college is higher than the national average LSAT score it is assumed that the applicant's undergraduate school is more competitive; thus the particular applicant may receive competition bonus points of 25, 50, 75 or 100, depending on the extent to which the applicant's school's LSAT average exceeds the national LSAT average. If the school's LSAT average is lower than the national average, no competition bonus points are awarded, and the applicant's stage one sum is comprised of only the weighted GPA figure and the LSAT score. The maximum score which any applicant can receive at stage one is 2188. This would be possible if a candidate had a 4.0 GPA and a 800 LSAT score.

 Pursuant to Faculty-Student Admissions Committee guidelines, the Director of Admissions of Rutgers determines a point below which an applicant is rejected, commonly called the cut-off point, by comparing the lowest score from the previous year's admissions with a summary of the scores from the first 300 applicants whose files are complete.

 The maximum score possible (680) from the second stage, composed of a review of four subjective areas worth a maximum of 130 points each, to wit, (1) education, (2) work experience, (3) personal information including an essay, and (4) recommendation, and a fifth factor, grade inflation, worth a maximum of 160 points, is added to the score achieved in the first stage. The areas in the second stage are established by the Rutgers Faculty-Student Admissions Committee. If the total from the first stage plus the maximum possible from the second stage is not greater than the cut-off point, then the applicant is denied admission. If the score is greater than the cut-off point, then the applicant's background is evaluated and points are assigned based upon criteria which include educational patterns, type and success of work, a recommendation, and the student's essay. The maximum possible total score of stages one and two is 2868.

 The minority admissions program works slightly differently. At stage one 50% of an applicant's total score is composed of the total of his highest LSAT score (within three years of the application year) and his GPA multiplied by 322, for the same weighting effect as in the regular admissions procedure. No competition bonus points are awarded. The maximum possible score at this first stage with a 4.0 GPA and 800 LSAT is 2088. The subjective areas of the second stage constitute the remaining 50% of the applicant's score or a possible 2000 points.

 According to criteria established by the Law School Faculty, the minority admissions program awards a maximum of 800 points for the applicant's education, particularly for factors such as a pattern of improvement, academic honors and graduate degrees. Work experience provides a possible 300 points for factors such as whether the work experience afforded the applicant the opportunity to use research, reading and writing skills. Working while attending undergraduate school is considered a part of this factor. A letter of recommendation is a possible 300 points, but the letter is only credible if the recommendation is clearly based on some substantive relationship between the applicant and the writer, as opposed to a social or familial relationship. Work in public interest or voluntary community causes will generate up to 300 points, and the applicant's essay can provide an additional maximum 300 points.

 Plaintiff's amended complaint states in general terms that defendant admissions officers incorrectly scored his application under the criteria of both the regular and the minority admissions program. In support of their first motion to dismiss defendant officials and law school submitted affidavits and memoranda which alleged the following. Doherty applied to the law school in March 1979. Because he answered the application's questions concerning ethnicity and educational disadvantage, his application was submitted to the dean of minority admissions for review under the minority program. Doherty answered that he was a member of the "Irish American" ethnic group and that he had a "Blue collar, Middle class" socio-economic background. He aspired to work in areas of labor and constitutional law. As to being culturally advantaged/disadvantaged, Doherty stated on the application:

 
I have a cultural advantage in that I am part of a strong family unit which takes pride in our heritage. I have an economic advantage since I have worked since I was seventeen, earning ...

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