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Hopwood v. Texas

Summary of the Case

Douglas Laycock. "Preface." Hopwood v. Texas Litigation Documents. Compiled by Kumar Percy with the assistance of Tobe Liebert & Mike Widener. Buffalo, N.Y.: William S. Hein & Co., 2002-2006.

           Hopwood v. Texas is the most intensively litigated case to date in the long battle over affirmative action in higher education.  Hopwood produced the first trial on the reasons for affirmative action in higher education since the early 1970s, when the University of Washington tried DeFunis v. Odegaard in state court.  DeFunis eventually became moot and resolved nothing.  416 U.S. 312 (1974).

            Hopwood was the first trial ever on affirmative action in higher education in a southern state with a history of deliberate segregation.  Hopwood produced a sweeping appellate opinion of unprecedented breadth, barring any consideration of race in admissions.  It produced many twists and turns and changes of fortune for both sides, with much public confusion about exactly what happened at various stages of the case.

            The perceived stakes were very high for all involved, and both sides have litigated with persistence, intensity, and enormous effort.  Plaintiffs claimed to have expended about $2.2 million worth of attorney time.  Defendants' lawyers were not billing their time, but a high-powered litigation team donated thousands of hours to vigorous defense of the university's position.  The defense team included the Attorney General of Texas and his staff, several professors on the faculty of The University of Texas Law School (including the late Charles Alan Wright, in what turned out to be his last case), and the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins.  Neither side left any stones unturned, and neither side was happy with the outcome.  The litigation continued more than nine years before finally coming to rest in a posture from which neither side saw any reasonable prospect of further appeal. 

            Civil rights organizations and minority students in the Law School repeatedly tried to intervene as additional defendants.  The Law School endorsed these motions to intervene; plaintiffs vigorously opposed them.  The courts repeatedly denied intervention, but permitted the proposed intervenors to file friend-of-the-court briefs.

            This volume is the first in a series that will comprise the record of the Hopwood litigation.  Professor Roy Mersky and the staff of the Tarlton Law Library have examined the docket sheets in each court to identify every document filed in the original case and the ancillary cases that developed around it; they have also reviewed the discovery files for documents that were not filed in court.  They have selected for publication all the significant documents in the case.  These volumes will be the definitive archival record, for advocates and commentators today and for historians in the future, of the case that suspended all forms of affirmative action in Texas universities.  It is all here -- pleadings, discovery, motions, two trials, two appeals, judgments, and opinions.

            These documents illuminate and extend the great arguments over affirmative action.  The arguments are presented in all the complexity of a real-world set of facts, with all the details of a real competitive admissions process, the real difficulties of ending segregation in public education, and the continuing effects of that segregation on admission pools in higher education.  The resulting factual and legal arguments are entangled in the adversary process, with procedural battles, side issues, tactical choices, and human errors on both sides.


The Lawsuit

The First Trial and Appeal

The Second Trial and Appeal

The End

Douglas Laycock 

November 2001