The Supreme Court will hear lawsuits against racially sensitive admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina next week. The rulings have the potential to end race-sensitive admissions to colleges across the country.
The anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions first filed a lawsuit against the universities in 2014, arguing that they discriminate against Asian-American applicants. After lower court decisions upholding the schools’ racially sensitive admissions policies, the SFFA appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn precedents and declare affirmative action unconstitutional.
Here are the attorneys who will be at the podium on October 31 on behalf of Harvard, SFFA and UNC.
Seth P. Waxman ’73
A partner in the law firm of WilmerHale, Waxman was asked by then-General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano to represent the university in 1983 when the SFFA first sued Harvard. Although William F. Lee ’72 — another WilmerHale partner and former Harvard Corporation senior fellow — served as lead counsel during the trial phase, Waxman will appear in court next week.
Waxman will return to a familiar position: As Attorney General of the United States from 1997 to 2001, Waxman was the country’s attorney for all litigation before the Supreme Court and argued over 80 times before the panel. Two of his most prominent cases were Boumediene v. Bush and Roper v. Simmons, concerning the rights of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty, respectively.
Raised in a Jewish family in Connecticut, Waxman focused on college sociology from 1969 to 1973 before graduating from Yale Law School in 1977. From 2005 to 2012 he was a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers – the second-highest governing body at the university and served as president of the board from 2010 to 2011.
Cameron T Norris
Norris is arguing in court at short notice — last week, SFFA lead attorney William S. Consovoy withdrew from hearings to seek treatment for brain cancer.
A graduate of Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Law School, Norris worked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas before being promoted to partner at the law firm Consovoy McCarthy in January.
The 34-year-old has previously argued successfully in the Supreme Court on behalf of CIC Services, an insurance company that has sued the Internal Revenue Service. The court ruled unanimously in favor of the CIC services.
Norris has previously argued on behalf of right-wing organizations, including the Republican National Committee. He also represented former President Donald J. Trump in his court battle with the House Ways and Means Committee, which was trying to gain access to his tax returns.
Strawbridge will represent the SFFA in its lawsuit against the University of North Carolina.
Another partner of Consovoy McCarthy, he will appear before the Supreme Court for a second time next week. He made his debut two years ago, representing former President Donald J. Trump in a tax filing dispute with William S. Consovoy and Cameron T. Norris.
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Strawbridge worked as a reporter before attending Creighton University School of Law. Like Consovoy and Norris, Strawbridge worked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He teaches at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where Consovoy is also on the faculty.
Strawbridge has previously opposed the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate and defended Georgia’s six-week abortion ban on behalf of the state. He will be the first to stand trial as the UNC case goes to Harvard.
Ryan Y Park
Park has served as Solicitor General for North Carolina since 2020 and will represent UNC. Park previously served as assistant attorney general from 2017 to 2020.
Park, whose family immigrated to North Carolina from South Korea in the 1970s, attended Amherst College before attending Harvard Law School, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2010. After law school, he worked for two Supreme Court Justices – former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter ’61. Park has previously argued before the panel: In 2019, he represented North Carolina in a copyright lawsuit, a case he won.
Prior to serving at the North Carolina Department of Justice, Park served as a legal counsel at the US Department of State and the US Department of Justice, and also worked at an international law firm. He has argued on behalf of the state in North Carolina and in federal courts over a dozen times.
In addition to his duties as Attorney General, Park teaches at Duke University and UNC Law School.
Alongside Waxman, Norris, Strawbridge and Park, two other attorneys will make oral arguments in court: US Attorney General Elizabeth B. Prelogar will argue for the Biden administration on behalf of Harvard and UNC, while David S. Hinojosa of the Civil Rights Advocates Committee will argue on behalf of UNC students.
—Staff author Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at [email protected]
– Contributor Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at [email protected]