Ruling by high court sought
Attorneys seek a review and reversal of an appeals court's decision that backed Kamehameha Schools' admission policy
Attorneys for a student challenging Kamehameha Schools' admission policy of giving preference to native Hawaiians have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling upholding the century-old practice.
Eric Grant, a Sacramento, Calif., attorney representing a non-Hawaiian student who was denied admission at the prestigious school, filed the 34-page petition Thursday. It seeks a review and reversal of a December ruling on the case by a 15-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
June 25, 2003: Attorneys for an unidentified non-Hawaiian boy sue Kamehameha Schools in federal court, challenging the school's Hawaiians-only preference for admissions. The suit contends that federal civil rights laws prohibit private schools from denying admission on the basis of race.
Nov. 17, 2003: U.S. District Judge Alan Kay strikes down the challenge by the unidentified student. Attorneys for the student later appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Aug. 2, 2005: Two out of three justices on a 9th Circuit panel rule that the schools' admission policy constitutes "unlawful race discrimination." The ruling reverses Kay's ruling.
Dec. 5, 2006: A 15-judge panel of the 9th Circuit votes 8-7 to affirm Kay's November 2003 ruling that the preference policy does not violate federal civil rights laws. The ruling reverses the Aug. 2, 2005, ruling against Kamehameha Schools.
Thursday: Attorneys for John Doe ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court's Dec. 5 ruling.
The panel voted 8-7 to affirm U.S. District Judge Alan Kay's 2003 ruling that found Kamehameha's preference policy does not violate federal civil rights laws and has the legitimate purpose of addressing economic and educational imbalances suffered by native Hawaiians.
Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen said the school will read the petition and, within 30 days, ask that the high court reject the request.
The student, named as John Doe in court papers, had his application to Kamehameha denied twice after he told the school that none of his grandparents had Hawaiian blood.
He graduated from a local public school with honors last spring and is enrolled in a four-year undergraduate college, according to his lawyers.
Grant expects the Supreme Court to decide whether to take up the case sometime before the summer recess in June. If the court agrees to the petition, the case could be heard as early as October, he said.
The petition contends that the appeals court's decision to back the school's policy is wrong because it creates an exemption to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, authorizing Kamehameha "to operate racially segregated schools forever," Grant said.
"That's a sufficiently important ruling that the Supreme Court ought to have the last ruling on whether that's permissible," he said.
In defending its 118-year-old admission policy, Kamehameha Schools has argued that it serves to remedy educational, social and economical disadvantages suffered by native Hawaiians since the U.S.-backed overthrow of their kingdom in 1893. The school contends that Hawaiians also have a special political relationship with Congress, which has enacted a number of laws aimed at helping them.
"We have a strong case to oppose a petition for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court," Kamehameha Schools CEO Dee Jay Mailer said in a statement. "This case does not raise issues of national importance. There is simply no other school in the country like Kamehameha."
The school, which enrolls some 6,715 students, was established in 1887 under a charitable trust set up by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop to educate the children of Hawaii. The $7.6 billion trust funds K-12 campuses on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, as well as 31 preschools statewide.