Jewish Groups Disappointed in Court’s Decision on De Funis Case
Menu JTA Search

Jewish Groups Disappointed in Court’s Decision on De Funis Case

Download PDF for this date

Jewish organizations which involved themselves on both sides of the De Funis case expressed disappointment today over the refusal yesterday of the Supreme Court to rule on the case on grounds it had become moot. Marco De Funis had complained that because of his race, he had been denied admission to Washington University Law School as a result of the law school’s policy of easing admission requirements for minority group students.

In a 5-4 unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court ruled the case had become moot because De Funis will graduate from the law school next month After he was refused admission in 1971, he obtained an order from Justice William O. Douglas which enabled him to enter and stay in the law school while the case was before the court.

The court said, in its ruling yesterday, that “If the admission procedures of the law school remain unchanged, there is no reason to suppose that a subsequent case attacking these procedures will not come with relative speed to this court,”

The American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee, had intervened as friends of the court in support of the student’s position that he had been the victim of “reverse discrimination” in being rejected for admission when a number of Black applicants with lower test scores had been admitted. The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish’ Women were the only Jewish organizations to support the university’s position.

Howard M. Squadron, chairman of the AJ Congress’ Governing Council, said the AJ Congress was “sharply disappointed” by the court’s declining rule on the substantive issues in the De Funis complaint. He said the AJ Congress supported “affirmative action” to increase opportunities in education and jobs for the disadvantaged but “without imposition of a system of racial preference or other discriminatory practice.”


Squadron said that, in the absence of a Supreme Court ruling, the AJ Congress would approach government administrative agencies, including the Department of Health. Education and Welfare, “to demand that they insure the guarantee of fair treatment embodied in the Constitution and clearly underscored by previous Supreme Court rulings.”

Seymour Graubard, ADL chairman, expressed regret that the court had held it could not rule, in the De Funis case, “on the constitutionality of the quota system.” He said the ADL remained deeply concerned about “the erosion of the merit system and the substitution for it of the practice of reverse discrimination,”

Elmer Winter, president of the American Jewish Committee, said the court inaction made it “imperative” that groups in the case “search for new ways to resolve the critical issues raised” by the suit. He said the Committee’s position was that the primary goal remained “the establishment of affirmative actions and processes that will provide disadvantaged minorities a realistic opportunity in education and employment while avoiding the dangers of reverse discrimination.” Winter added that the university “should now take another look at its proposed rules, and eliminate those features that clearly establish a two-track system on a racial basis.”

Albert E. Arent of-Washington, D.C., chairman of the Reform Commission, called the De Funis case “ambiguous and mixed” and said there were undoubtedly “better and clearer cases” for the Supreme Court to study to determine “the necessary line between needed affirmative action on the one hand and improper use of fixed quotas or other illegal means on the other.” He said the Commission and the NCJW entered the case on the side of the university because it believed that the school had applied “affirmative action.” which “free of noxious fixed quotas, needs to be safeguarded.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund