Tuesday, February 6, 2001

WRITER: Tom Jackson, Assoc. V.P. for Public Affairs (706) 542-8090

CONTACT: Mark Cohen, attorney, Troutman-Sanders (404) 885-3597


ATHENS, Ga. -- A lawsuit alleging discrimination against two white applicants to the University of Georgia School of Law has been settled out of court. As a result, there will be no change in the law school's admissions process and the university has not admitted to any allegations raised by the plaintiffs.

A stipulation of dismissal was filed today with the clerk of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Savannah. The university previously settled two other reverse discrimination cases involving the undergraduate admissions process. Remaining on appeal is a case that observers say has potential landmark implications for national policy on the role of affirmative action in higher education admissions processes.

In a ruling last July, the district court held that the use of race as one of many factors in a small portion of the undergraduate admissions process was unconstitutional. The case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. Briefs have been filed and the parties are awaiting the court's announcement of a date for oral arguments.

"We have been focusing on the important appeal of the undergraduate admissions case," said Special Assistant Attorney General Mark H. Cohen, who represents the Board of Regents and law school Dean David Shipley. "Our position remains that the admissions policy at the law school is constitutional and defensible. We were able to resolve the law school case amicably with the plaintiffs, and the law school will continue its current admissions process without further challenge by these parties."

The dismissal was agreed to by Cohen on behalf of the Board of Regents and Shipley, attorney Lee Parks on behalf of the plaintiffs, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, attorneys for several intervenors.

"This is a good settlement for the law school," said Shipley. "It enables us to continue our efforts to recruit outstanding students without making any changes in our admissions policy."

The case was filed May 23, 2000, by Virginia Noble and Robert Homlar, who were rejected for admission to the law school's 1999 entering class. The settlement provides that Noble, now in her second year at Mercer University School of Law, and Homlar, now in his second year at the University of South Carolina School of Law, will be paid $20,000 and $15,000 respectively. Homlar will also be given the option of attending the UGA School of Law for his third year of studies as a visiting student if approved by the dean of the USC School of Law. If he attends the UGA school for his third year successfully, Homlar still would receive his law degree from USC.

The case is dismissed "with prejudice," meaning the plaintiffs cannot file any similar suit again. Plaintiffs' attorneys also received $20,000 for their fees and expenses.

"This is consistent with our pattern in settling the other extraneous admissions cases in order to keep our focus on the main, major case," said University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams. "Everybody agreed that the law school does not have to change its current admissions process, so this settlement keeps the status quo while we press forward with our appeal in the 11th Circuit."

Gov. Roy E. Barnes issued a statement in support of the action, as well: "I concur with the decision to settle for several reasons. The settlement preserves the law school's admissions process as is, saves a considerable amount of taxpayers' money, and clears the decks for the important appeal of the undergraduate admissions case."