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Lawsuit Challenges Affirmative Action in Hiring at Northwestern Law School

A conservative group filed a lawsuit against Northwestern University’s law school on Tuesday, claiming that its attempts to hire more women and people of color as faculty members violate federal law prohibiting discrimination against race and sex.

The complaint comes just over a year after the Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions, and it is expected to be among the first in a wave of new lawsuits that challenge how American universities hire and promote professors.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Chicago, says that the process of hiring professors at American universities has become “a cesspool of corruption and lawlessness.” It says Northwestern has deliberately sidelined white male candidates for faculty positions, giving preference to candidates of other races and gender identities.

Representatives of the law school did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The complaint, filed by a group calling itself Faculty, Alumni and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences, named several candidates for teaching jobs at Northwestern, including well-known legal scholars, who it said were denied interviews or blocked from advancing.

“For decades, left-wing faculty and administrators have been thumbing their noses at federal anti-discrimination statutes and openly discriminating on account of race and sex when appointing professors,” the complaint says. “They do this by hiring women and racial minorities with mediocre and undistinguished records over white men who have better credentials, better scholarship and better teaching ability.”

Members of the group are not named in the complaint, but the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jonathan F. Mitchell, is a former Texas solicitor general turned activist litigator for conservative causes. He is joined by Gene P. Hamilton, general counsel of America First Legal Foundation, which bills itself as a conservative answer to the much deeper-pocketed A.C.L.U.

The complaint’s sweeping approach suggests that the group wants to explicitly position itself as a successor to Students for Fair Admissions, the group that sued universities on behalf of Asian American students who said they had been discriminated against when applying to colleges.

A year ago, those complaints led the Supreme Court to ban affirmative action in college admissions.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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