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Civil rights attorney John Payton '73 to speak about Supreme Court rulings on diversity.

Noted civil rights attorney John Payton, who served as lead counsel for the University of Michigan in two recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning diversity in higher education, will speak at Pomona College on Tuesday, February 22. His lecture on “Lessons and Challenges of the University of Michigan Cases” is set for 4 p.m. in the Rose Hills Theatre of the Smith Campus Center.

In two cases decided in the summer of 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the university's undergraduate admissions policy, in which race was considered according to a formulaic point system, but upheld the more individualized race-conscious admissions policy of the university's law school, affirming that race can be considered as one of many factors in admissions. Payton, who graduated from Pomona College in 1973,  led the argument on behalf of the university in both cases.

“The Michigan cases have provoked a hard look at our society, particularly how racially diverse we are and yet how racially divided we remain,” Payton said recently. “The University of Michigan cases focused on how important it is for institutions of higher education to confront these realities, but they also pointed out how much remains to be done with respect to race in our society.”

A native of Los Angeles, Payton graduated from Pomona College in 1973 and went on to earn his law degree from Harvard Law School. He came to the University of Michigan lawsuits with a history of work on other civil rights cases, including leadership roles in the national Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Free South Africa movement.

The event is co-sponsored by the Hart Institute for American History and the Office of the President.