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William T Coleman Jr. to Give Preiskel/Silverman Lecture, "Year 2003: Accords and Discords," Dec. 1


William T. Coleman Jr. will deliver the 2003-2004 Preiskel/Silverman Fellow Lecture, titled "Year 2003: Accords and Discords," in Room 127, on Monday, December 1, 2003, at 4:30 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.


William Coleman, senior partner at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, will discuss how legal and political events of the last year illustrate dramatic shifts in our understanding of certain judicial principles. Coleman is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NAACP's Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. He served as secretary of the Department of Transportation under President Gerald Ford.

One example Coleman will discuss is the question of diversity in higher education, as dealt with in two recent Supreme Court cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. He recalls the "stinging phrase" from Justice John Marshall Harlan's landmark dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson that "the Constitution is color blind." While this once seemed an eminently sensible and progressive proclamation, Coleman argues that it has become "one of our biggest stumbling blocks for diversity." He points to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting opinion in , in which she argues that too strict a color-blind requirement in higher education admissions could lead to subterfuge and camouflage in the process.

Coleman will also discuss the controversy over Congressional redistricting in Texas--and how these and other events affect the principle established in Baker v. Carr of "one man, one vote." He will also touch on issues in corporate governance and the use of international law and standards in domestic judicial decisions.

"I think most of these are cases that when they were decided people thought they were the greatest thing in the world.... But now they've raised many complications."