The Trump administration is backing a federal lawsuit that charges that Harvard University illegally discriminates against Asian-American applicants. The Justice Department filed a brief today, arguing Harvard puts Asian Americans at a disadvantage by using subjective personal ratings.

The Justice Department is supporting the group Students for Fair Admissions, which has accused Harvard of capping the number of Asian-American students it admits and systematically ranking them lower on intangible traits like courage, kindness and leadership.

In its filing Thursday, the Justice Department said, "Harvard has failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian-Americans."

The plaintiff — and other conservatives — want Harvard to drop race-conscious admissions altogether.

"I can't believe it's 2018 and we're saying that that person gets in over that person solely because they are of a preferred race,” said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute.

Shapiro thinks the approach Harvard is accused of taking perpetuates a stereotype of Asian Americans "that their whole strength of their application is that they just do well in math or do well on their standardized test and they're not a whole person."

“It’s just bizarre,” Shapiro said.

Harvard denies the charges, and, in a statement, said it's disappointed that the Justice Department has taken the side of Students for Fair Admissions. The university has pointed out that Asian Americans now account for nearly 23 percent of all admitted students.

While the case focuses on Asian Americans, the foundation of race-conscious college admissions is at stake. That's why civil rights organizations are defending Harvard, including several Asian-American groups.

"There's a lot of research that shows that diverse learning environments benefit everyone," said attorney Nicole Ochiwith the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Ochi believes Harvard couldn't achieve the same level of diversity without considering race.

"We don't believe there's any evidence that that is unconstitutional or discriminating against Asian Americans," she said.

Harvard's lawyers have dismissed Students for Fair Admissions, led by conservative strategist Edward Blum, as "nothing more than a mailing list."

The trial is set to start in October, but in an email, Blum said no Asian Americans are currently prepared to testify that they were unfairly denied admission to one of the most selective colleges in the country.

This article has been updated.