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United States v. Fordice

United States Supreme Court
505 U.S. 717 (1992)


The public university system of Mississippi was established in 1848. The system began with the University of Mississippi and grew to include several additional universities, all of which served white students. In 1940 and again in 1950, a university was added to solely serve black students. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), held that the concept of separate but equal was unconstitutional in the field of public education. Despite Brown, Mississippi continued the segregated university system until the first black student was admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, by court order. In 1969, the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) began enforcement efforts under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against Mississippi due to the largely intact segregated system. Mississippi enacted a plan in 1978 to address the largely segregated system, but HEW determined that the plan was insufficient. In 1975, private litigants sued Mississippi for maintaining a racially segregated system, alleging violations of the Fifth, Ninth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The United States joined as a plaintiff. The parties attempted to negotiate a solution for 12 years but failed to do so. The lawsuit proceeded to trial in 1987. At this time, approximately 99 percent of white students attended the five traditionally white universities, and the three traditionally black universities enrolled between 92 and 99 percent black students. Three of the traditionally white universities required all applicants to have a minimum score of 15 on the American College Testing Program (ACT). Additionally, a significant portion of undergraduate and graduate programming was unnecessarily duplicated between the various universities. The district court determined that Mississippi had adopted race-neutral admissions policies in compliance with Mississippi’s obligations under the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. The United States and the private plaintiffs appealed. The court of appeals agreed that Mississippi had complied with its obligation to desegregate the university system. The United States and the private plaintiffs petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Concurrence (Thomas, J.)

Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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