Case: University of California Regents v. Bakke

S.F. No. 23311 | California state trial court

Filed Date: 1974

Closed Date: July 3, 1978

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This suit was brought in California state court by a white man whose application to the Medical School of the University of California at Davis was rejected against the University of California Board of Regents. The plaintiff challenged the school’s special admissions program, which reserved 16 of 100 positions in the class for disadvantaged minority students. The plaintiff alleged violations of Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourtee…

This suit was brought in California state court by a white man whose application to the Medical School of the University of California at Davis was rejected against the University of California Board of Regents. The plaintiff challenged the school’s special admissions program, which reserved 16 of 100 positions in the class for disadvantaged minority students. The plaintiff alleged violations of Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and a provision of the California Constitution. He sought injunctive and declaratory relief. The case was assigned to Judge Leslie Manker of the Yolo County Superior Court.

The Clearinghouse does not have access to trial court litigation documents, but it is known from appellate court documents that the Board of Regents cross-claimed for a declaratory judgment that its special admissions program was legal. The trial court held that the program was a racial quota in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Judge Manker refused to order the university to admit the applicant for lack of proof that the applicant would have been admitted but for the special admissions program. Both parties appealed and the case was transferred directly to the California Supreme Court “because of the importance of the issues involved.”

Writing for the California Supreme Court on September 16, 1976, Justice Mosk affirmed that the special admissions program violated the Equal Protection Clause for “nonminority applicants” and further ordered the applicant admitted. The court held that while the plaintiff was a member of a racial majority, strict scrutiny was still the appropriate standard of review and that the university had failed to demonstrate that its goal of achieving racial diversity could not be achieved by less detrimental means. Since the university could not demonstrate that, absent the special program, the applicant would not have been admitted, the court ordered his admission. The court did not take up the federal statutory or state constitutional issues. 553 P.2d 1152. 

The Board of Regents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and sought a stay of the order to admit the plaintiff, which was granted on November 15, 1976. Certiorari was granted on February 22, 1977.

Oral arguments were heard by the US Supreme Court on October 12, 1977, and an opinion was issued on June 28, 1978. A fractured Court saw six different opinions, with Justice Powell being joined by different four-Justice blocs at times. Effectively writing for the Court, Justice Powell agreed that strict scrutiny was the appropriate standard of review. While Justice Powell agreed that diversity in higher education was a compelling state interest, the Court held that the use of a rigid racial quota or set-aside was not narrowly tailored and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause. Schools thus could consider race in admissions in the future through a more holistic process with race as a plus factor. As to the plaintiff, the Court determined that since the university could not show that the applicant would not have been admitted even in the absence of the special admissions program, he was entitled to admission. The Court did not resolve the Title VI claim since it was not argued or decided in the lower courts. 438 U.S. 265. The Court subsequently vacated its order to stay the applicant’s admission on July 3, 1978. 438 U.S. 912.

This case is closed.

Summary Authors

Robin Peterson (3/16/2023)

People


Judge(s)

Blackmun, Harry Andrew (District of Columbia)

Brennan, William Joseph Jr. (District of Columbia)

Expert/Monitor/Master/Other

Bell, Griffin Boyette (Georgia)

Days, Drew S. III (District of Columbia)

Easterbrook, Frank Hoover (Illinois)

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Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

S.F. No. 23311

Opinion

Bakke v. Regents of the University of California

California state supreme court

Sept. 16, 1976

Sept. 16, 1976

Order/Opinion

553 P.2d 553

76-811

Opinion

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Supreme Court of the United States

Feb. 22, 1977

Feb. 22, 1977

Order/Opinion

429 U.S. 429

76-811

Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae

The Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Supreme Court of the United States

Oct. 1, 1977

Oct. 1, 1977

Pleading / Motion / Brief

76-811

Motion for Leave to File a Supplemental Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae and Supplemental Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae

The Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Supreme Court of the United States

Nov. 1, 1977

Nov. 1, 1977

Pleading / Motion / Brief

76-811

Opinion

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Supreme Court of the United States

June 28, 1978

June 28, 1978

Order/Opinion

438 U.S. 438

76-811

Opinion

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Supreme Court of the United States

July 3, 1978

July 3, 1978

Order/Opinion

429 U.S. 429

76-811

Opinion

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

Supreme Court of the United States

July 3, 1978

July 3, 1978

Order/Opinion

438 U.S. 438

Docket

Last updated Aug. 30, 2023, 2:51 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: California

Case Type(s):

Education

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1974

Closing Date: July 3, 1978

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

White male applicant denied admissions to a state medical school.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

State of California, State

Defendant Type(s):

College/University

Facility Type(s):

Government-run

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Available Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Any published opinion

U.S. Supreme Court merits opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Issues

General/Misc.:

School/University policies

Discrimination Basis:

Race discrimination

Affected Race(s):

White