In a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action, a plaintiff who challenges an ongoing race-conscious program and seeks forward-looking relief need not affirmatively establish that he would receive the benefit in question if race were not considered. The relevant injury in such cases is the inability to compete on an equal footing. But where there is no allegation of an ongoing or imminent constitutional violation to support a claim for forward-looking relief, the government's conclusive demonstration that it would have made the same decision absent the alleged discrimination precludes any finding of liability.
Respondent's application for admission to petitioner state university was rejected. Respondent filed suit, contending that by establishing and maintaining a race-conscious admissions process, the school violated 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 1983, 1981, and 2000d. The district court granted summary judgment for petitioner, since there was uncontested evidence that the admitted students had credentials superior to respondent's. The appellate reversed, finding that there remained a factual dispute as to whether the stage of review during which respondent's application was eliminated was in some way race conscious. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the appellate court’s decisions and remanded the case.
Did the appellate court err in holding that petitioner university was not entitled to summary judgment even if respondent, an applicant for admission to petitioner university, would have been rejected under race-neutral policy?
Even if petitioner had considered an impermissible criterion in making its decision, it could nonetheless defeat liability by demonstrating it would have made the same decision absent the forbidden consideration. Whether respondent's 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 1981 and 2000d claims remained, and whether respondent had abandoned his claim for injunctive relief, were matters open on remand.