The University of Michigan (UM), a state school, gave black and Latino admission applicants preference in admissions decisions. UM denied admission to Barbara Grutter and Jennifer Gratz (plaintiffs), both of whom were white admission applicants. Grutter and Gratz sued Lee Bollinger (defendant), a UM admissions officer, for violating their Fourteenth Amendment equal-protection rights. Several black and Latino admission applicants, prospective applicants, and groups (petitioners) filed a timely Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) petition to intervene in the case. The petitioners claimed that the case threatened their access to public education and that UM could not adequately represent their interest in the case's outcome. The federal district court denied the petition, ruling that UM could adequately represent the petitioners' interest. The intervenors appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.