Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bakke Decision of the US Supreme Court

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.  A case decided by the US Supreme Court in 1978 involving charges of reverse discrimination created by an Affirmative Action program that gave preference to nonwhite applicants to a medical school. In the Bakker decision the Supreme Court took its first step in dealing with the problems in implementing affirmative action programs.  Allen P Bakke, a white male, 33 years of age applied for admission to the Medical School of the University of California at Davis in 1973 and 1974 but was denied admission both years while minority applicants with grade point averages significantly lower than Bakke's were admitted under a special admissions program. The program reserved 16 of the 100 places in the class solely for African Americans, Chicanos, Asians and American Indians. In effect white applicants could compete for only 84 places while minorities could compete for all 100 places. After his second rejection in 1974, Bakke filed a suit in the Superior Court of California alleging that the special admissions program at Davis violated his rights under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohinited excluding any person from a federally funded program on the basis race and under California Constitution.

The California court decided that the special program operated as a racial quota because minority applicants in the program were rated only against one another and 16 places of a class of 100 were reserved for them. The court ruled that the university could not take race into account in its admissions decisions.  However the Court refused Bakke admission order because he had failed to show that he would have gained entrance had it not been for the special admissions program.

The decision was appealed in the California Supreme Court which ordered the admission. The Medical School then forwarded a writ of certiorari to the US Supreme Court.  The order to admit Bakke was suspended till the decision of the Supreme Court.

In 1978, in a 5-4 decision the US Supreme Court handed down a decision that has been called something for everyone. The Court decided that although Bakke should be admitted to emdical school because he was denied admission only on the basis of his race, the race of an applicant may be given consideration in the admissions procedure of the university in order to achieve ethnic diversity.  Four Justices decided that Bakke's rejection amounted to a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  Four other Justices decided that the racial classification used by the Medical School did not violate Bakke's rights on the basis that the state may use racial classifications where no less restrictive alternative is available.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Powell who agreed with both sides partly. He ruled that Bakke was discriminated against but that race classification may be used.

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