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Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978)

In this case focused on affirmative action practices, the Court held that public universities could not use racial quotas in their admissions process. Rigid quota systems based on race were unconstitutional violations of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Understanding affirmative action as a way of righting past wrongs against minority groups, the opinion held that public universities could consider an applicant’s race as one of several criteria for admission.

Dissenting, Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “In light of the sorry history of discrimination and its devastating impact on the lives of Negroes, bringing the Negro into the mainstream of American life should be a state interest of the highest order.”

The case touched on constitutional principles including equality, and civic values including consideration, initiative, perseverance, and respect.