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The Burger Court (1969–86)

Court Decisions

In what case did the Burger Court first consider the constitutionality of affirmative action?

The Burger Court considered the constitutionality of an affirmative action program in Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978). The case concerned the admissions policy at the medical school of the University of California at Davis. The UC Davis medical school had a policy that reserved sixteen of its one hundred seats for minority applicants. Allan Bakke, a white male rejected by the school in 1973 and 1974, sued the school, claiming that the school violated his rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bakke’s grade point average and MCAT scores were significantly higher than many minority candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that the school’s policy amounted to a quota. The Court determined that the school could not carry its burden of proving that Bakke would have been denied entrance without its “unlawful special admissions program.”



Demonstators march in New York City in protest of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978). AP Images.
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