The Justice Department has increasingly used such statements of interest to intervene in civil rights cases.
Before 2006, such statements appeared only seven times in civil rights-oriented disputes, according to a recent paper by law school student Victor Zapana.
But the Trump administration is turning the same tool against affirmative action in college admissions, a major — and highly contentious — legacy of the civil rights era, and one that white conservatives have opposed for decades.
A handful of states already ban public universities from relying on affirmative action, pushing several toward a model that takes socioeconomic factors into account instead of race.
Now, universities that factor race into admissions have found a powerful new opponent in the Trump administration, which argued in its filing on Thursday that the court should deny Harvard’s request to dismiss the case before trial.