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Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

On June 28, 1978, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a lower court decision requiring the University of California to admit Allan P. Bakke to its medical school at Davis.

Demonstrators protest the Bakke decision in Washington, D.C.
protesting the Bakke decision

Allan P. Bakke, a 38-year-old white man, had twice applied for admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis, and had been rejected both times. The school's minority admission program stipulated that 16 of 100 first-year openings be reserved for minorities, even if their test scores were lower than those of others whose applications were rejected. Bakke's qualifications (college GPA and test scores) exceeded those of any of the minority students admitted in the two years his applications were rejected. On June 20, 1974, Bakke brought suit against the university's Board of Regents charging that the special admission programs for minorities violated both the U. S. and California constitutions, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

On March 7, 1975, California Superior Court Judge F. Leslie Manker ruled that the university's minority admission program was unconstitutional and ordered the medical school to reconsider Bakke's application without regard to race. Both parties appealed the ruling, the university on March 20 because the program was struck down, and Bakke on April 17 because he was not ordered admitted.

On September 16, 1976, the Supreme Court of California upheld Judge Manker's ruling and ordered the university to provide evidence that Bakke would not have been admitted under a race-neutral program. When the university conceded its inability to do so in a petition for rehearing, the court on October 28, 1976 amended its ruling to order Bakke's admission.

The university appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on October 12, 1977, and handed down its decision on June 26, 1978. Four of the Supreme Court Justices contended that any racial quota system supported by government violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., agreed and cast the deciding vote, but argued that the rigid use of racial quotas as employed at the school violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a second 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that race could be used as a factor in admission to institutions of higher learning. Powell was the deciding vote in this decision as well.

Bakke attends his first class at the University of California Medical School, in September 1978.
Bakke attends his first class


Legal Information Institute
The Oyez Project

See Also

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

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This page was last updated on 12/18/2018.