The University of Washington School of Law did not illegally discriminate against three white applicants when it denied them admission in the mid-1990s, a federal appeals-court...

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The University of Washington School of Law did not illegally discriminate against three white applicants when it denied them admission in the mid-1990s, a federal appeals-court panel ruled yesterday.

The decision, upholding a 2002 ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly, means Katuria Smith, Angela Rock and Michael Pyle are not entitled to damages.

The three became poster children for the campaign to pass Initiative 200, which outlawed state preference for women and minorities in education, hiring and contracting.

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Until the initiative passed in 1998, the law school considered race as one factor in admissions. The three argued that without the policy, they would have been admitted.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the Smith case — and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in a decision last year about the University of Michigan law school — that ensuring educational diversity was a legitimate goal of the state.

The case then returned to Zilly, who had to decide whether the policy had been applied correctly to Smith, Rock and Pyle when they were denied admission between 1994 and 1996.

In 2002, Zilly found that the policy had been applied correctly and that the three applicants would not have been admitted even under a race-neutral admissions policy.

The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit held off on hearing the appeal of that decision until the Supreme Court ruled in the University of Michigan case.

The Supreme Court’s ruling set five criteria for public universities to use in establishing admission policies that consider race. The policies must not use quotas; must consider the individual characteristics of each applicant; must consider race-neutral ways to encourage diversity; must not unduly harm any racial-group member; and must have a sunset provision or some other end point.

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit panel found that the UW School of Law’s admissions policy from 1994 to 1996 met those criteria.