438 U.S. 265 (1978).

A key Supreme Court opinion that laid the groundwork for what was to become a majority position applying strict scrutiny to race based affirmative action programs under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plaintiff, a white male, sued the University of California, claiming the admissions procedure for its medical school violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The University’s admissions procedure reserved sixteen seats in each entering class of one hundred for minorities and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Under a strict scrutiny analysis, the United States Supreme Court held the state plan unconstitutional.  There was no majority opinion. Rather, the nine Justices wrote six separate opinions debating the appropriate level of scrutiny.

Justice Powell stated that strict scrutiny should be applied to all racial classifications and struck down the program because the University could not carry the burden of showing the racial classification was necessary to promote a substantial state interest.

The four Justices led by Justice Brennan would have applied intermediate scrutiny and would have upheld the admissions program under this standard.