Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

U.S. Case Law

Legal Definition of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 

438 U.S. 265 (1978), held that fixed quotas may not be set for places for minority applicants at professional schools if white applicants are denied a chance to compete for those places. The Court qualified the ruling, however, by saying that race may be considered as a factor in making decisions on admission. At issue was a state medical school admissions program that, because it required a certain number of minority applicants, twice denied admission to a qualified white candidate (Bakke). The Court concluded: “Government may take race into account when it acts not to demean or insult any racial group, but to remedy disadvantages cast on racial minorities by past racial prejudice.” In 2003 the Court applied Bakke in two cases brought against the University of Michigan. It struck down an undergraduate admissions policy of automatically awarding to minority applicants additional points toward the total needed for admission in Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003), but upheld a law school policy that involved “a highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file” in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003). In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), the Court upheld an affirmative action program, but emphasized that such programs must be reviewed under a standard of strict scrutiny to ensure that they are not used in place of non-race-based alternatives to achieve diversity.

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