Cheryl J. Hopwood v. State of Texas

78 F.3d 932 (1996)

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Cheryl J. Hopwood v. State of Texas

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
78 F.3d 932 (1996)

Facts

Cheryl Hopwood and three other applicants (the denied applicants) (plaintiffs) applied to the University of Texas School of Law (UT Law) but were not admitted. UT Law, in an effort to increase enrollment of minority students and diversity among its student body, employed a system whereby an applicant’s race was considered. Under the system, UT Law gave each applicant a Texas Index Number (TI), which was a combination of undergraduate grade point average and LSAT score. Applicants were sorted into one of three categories based on their TI: presumptive admit, presumptive deny, or a middle discretionary zone. The TI ranges that were used for Mexican American and African American applicants (the preferential minorities) were lower than those for White and other nonpreferential minority students. Because of this, applicants who fell into one of the preferred-minority categories could be admitted with a TI score that would have otherwise seen them placed in the presumptive-deny category. UT Law’s stated goal was to have a class consisting of 10 percent Mexican Americans and 5 percent African Americans, which was consistent with the student bodies at other Texas colleges. UT Law also reviewed preferential-minority candidates differently, establishing a minority subcommittee that would discuss every candidate individually. The denied applicants, all White residents of Texas, sued the state of Texas (defendant), alleging that UT Law’s admissions system treated them differently on the basis of their race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A district court ultimately ruled for the plaintiffs but, in its analysis, held that two of UT Law’s stated reasons for disparate treatment were legitimate: (1) obtaining educational benefits from a diverse student body; and (2) overcoming and remedying the past effects of discrimination. The district court then upheld the component of UT Law’s admissions process whereby TI ranges were adjusted for preferential-minority candidates but struck down its use of different admissions committees. The relief granted by the district court did not include an order that the denied applicants be admitted. The denied applicants appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Smith, J.)

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