Gratz v. Bollinger
Gratz v. Bollinger was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy. In a 6-3 decision announced on June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled the university's point system was too mechanistic and therefore unconstitutional.
The University of Michigan used a 150-point scale to rank applicants, with 100 points needed to guarantee admission. The University gave "underrepresented" ethnic, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans an automatic 20-point bonus on this scale.
The petitioners, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, both white residents of Michigan, applied for admission to the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). Gratz applied for admission in the fall of 1995 and Hamacher in the fall of 1997. Both were subsequently denied admission to the university. In October 1997, Gratz and Hamacher filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against the University of Michigan, the LSA, James Duderstadt, and Lee Bollinger. Duderstadt was president of the university while Gratz's application was under consideration, and Bollinger while Hamacher's was under consideration. Their class-action lawsuit alleged "violations and threatened violations of the rights of the plaintiffs and the class they represent to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ... and for racial discrimination."
Like Grutter v. Bollinger, the case was heard in District Court, appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and asked to be heard before the Supreme Court.
Issues of Standing
It has been argued by some that Jennifer Gratz lacked standing to bring this action. Gratz applied in 1995, three years before the University of Michigan adopted its points system. Gratz could not claim injury as a result of the points system, and thus, under traditional legal rules, Gratz lacked standing. Ms. Gratz chose not to attend the University of Michigan by declining the university's offer to be placed on a waiting list. Every Michigan student who agreed to go onto the waiting list in the spring of 1995 was admitted to the University of Michigan for the fall 1995 semester.
The Court's majority found that Gratz and co-plaintiff Hamacher had standing to seek declaratory and injunctive relief, relying on Northeastern Fla. Chapter, Associated Gen. Contractors of America v. Jacksonville, which held that the existence of a discriminatory barrier preventing a petitioner from seeking a benefit on an equal basis sufficed to establish injury, regardless of ultimate ability to obtain the benefit.
Decision of the Court
The Court, in a ruling by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, held that the policy was unconstitutional:
- Because the University's use of race in its current freshman admissions policy is not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents' asserted compelling interest in diversity, the admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court held a 6-3 opinion in favor of Gratz.