U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake issued a long awaited, 60-page ruling this month in the case Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence v. Maryland Higher Education Commission. The litigation was brought by supporters of Maryland's historically black institutions (HBIs), Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The plaintiffs argued that the state of Maryland had failed in its obligation under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to desegregate its higher education system. The defendants, represented by state Attorney General Douglas Gansler's staff, responded that Maryland had made extraordinary efforts to desegregate and the HBIs were in no way disadvantaged by current policies.
The case began in 2006. There were thousands of pages of discovery documents, numerous expert witness reports, and direct testimony by most of the luminaries in the state's higher education system during the six week trial in the winter of 2012. If nothing else, the case proved just how complicated and politicized is the Maryland higher education policy process. It was left to Judge Blake, a careful and conscientious jurist, to sort out the competing claims and largely obsolete legal precedents to render a verdict. Unfortunately, her ruling is both anti-climatic and antiquated.