Adarand Constructors v. Pena

515 U.S. 200, 115 S. Ct. 2097 (1995)



The United States Supreme Court holds that all racial classifications, imposed by whatever federal, state, or local governmental actor, must be analyzed by a reviewing court under strict scrutiny. In other words, such classifications are constitutional only if they are narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests. To the extent that Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC, 497 U.S. 547 (1990) is inconsistent with that holding, it is overruled. 


A low bidder on a federal contract was denied the contract because a presumptive preference was given to minority business entities. The bidder sued, claiming violation of its U.S. Const. amend. V equal protection rights. Lower federal courts rejected the claim, relying upon precedent which subjected U.S. Const. amend. V equal protection claims to intermediate scrutiny.


Does the Government's use of race-based presumptions in identifying such individuals violate equal protection?




The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that (a) petitioner could claim injury owing to a discriminatory classification which prevented it from competing on an equal footing (petitioner need not allege that it would have obtained a benefit but for the discriminatory classification); (b) U.S. Const. amends. V and XIV equal protection claims are analyzed precisely the same way - applying strict scrutiny analysis (that is, government racial classifications must serve a compelling governmental interest and be narrowly tailored to further that interest); and (c) because lower courts applied intermediate scrutiny, remand for strict scrutiny analysis was required. It reiterated that equal protection claims are analyzed just like amend. XIV claims when governmental racial classifications are involved - a classification must serve a compelling governmental interest and be narrowly tailored to further that interest.

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