Settlement talks break down in civil rights case

Settlement talks in a five-year-old federal lawsuit alleging bias against Maryland's historically black colleges and universities appear to have broken down.

"While the parties have engaged in good faith mediation and may have further discussions between now and the December trial, the very large gap between our respective positions realistically requires that we now turn in earnest to trial preparation," a lawyer for the schools wrote Thursday in a letter sent to the judge.

A coalition claiming to represent the interests of Morgan, Coppin and Bowie state universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore sued the state's Higher Education Commission in 2006, alleging that the schools are underfunded and held back by racist policies.

The two sides were scheduled for trial in July, but the case was postponed until December, so they could try to talk out their differences. Trial is set to begin Dec. 12.

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