A U.S. Court of Appeals will not block West Point’s race-sensitive admissions policy

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Written by Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Monday declined to block the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from considering race as a factor in admissions decisions, while the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to block the elite U.S. military college from doing so.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue an injunction sought by Students for Fair Admissions, the group behind the Supreme Court’s successful challenge to racially sensitive group admissions policies.

That group, founded by Edward Bloom, an opponent of affirmative action, had been seeking an injunction pending its appeal of a federal judge’s Jan. 3 ruling rejecting its attempt to block West Point from considering race as an admissions factor.

With time running out before the Jan. 31 application deadline, Students for Fair Admissions on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block West Point’s admissions policy while it pursues appeals.

She did so before the Second Circuit ruled. But Bloom Group in a filing on Sunday asked the Second Circuit to rule, saying it would withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court if the Second Circuit ruled in its favor.

West Point is a prestigious military service academy in New York State that educates cadets for enlistment in the US Army. The U.S. Department of Justice said in court filings that West Point is a “vital pipeline for the officer corps” and that its racially sensitive admissions practices help the Army achieve the “mission critical” goal of having officers as diverse as its enlisted military personnel. .

Bloom declined to comment Monday, citing the pending Supreme Court appeal. President Joe Biden’s administration has until Tuesday to respond to the group’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Bloom’s group filed a lawsuit against West Point in September aiming to end what was essentially an exception for military academies included in a June 2023 Supreme Court ruling on college admissions that allowed those institutions to continue considering race in admissions.

In a ruling upheld 6-3 by a conservative majority, the Supreme Court rejected policies long used by American colleges and universities to increase the number of black, Latino and other minority students on American campuses.

In invalidating the admissions policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, the Supreme Court did not address the issue of race in admissions to military academies, which Chief Justice John Roberts said in a footnote had “potentially distinct interests.”

Bloom’s group accused West Point of using admissions practices that discriminate against white applicants and violate the equal protection principle of the US Constitution.

The Biden administration says senior military leaders have long recognized that the dearth of minority officers can create mistrust within the armed forces.

Although blacks make up 20.2% of active-duty Army enlistees, only 11% of officers are black, the Justice Department said. She added that Hispanics constitute 18% of working personnel but only 9% of officers. The Justice Department said that whites make up 51.7% of active-duty Army recruits and 68% of its officers.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham)

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