Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peľa, 515 U.S. 200, 3 (1995)

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202

ADARAND CONSTRUCTORS, INC. v. PENA

Syllabus

ernmental action based on race—a group classification long recognized as in most circumstances irrelevant and therefore prohibited—should be subjected to detailed judicial inquiry to ensure that the personal right to equal protection has not been infringed. Thus, strict scrutiny is the proper standard for analysis of all racial classifications, whether imposed by a federal, state, or local actor. To the extent that Metro Broadcasting is inconsistent with that holding, it is overruled. Pp. 227-231. (d) The decision here makes explicit that federal racial classifications, like those of a State, must serve a compelling governmental interest, and must be narrowly tailored to further that interest. Thus, to the extent that Fullilove held federal racial classifications to be subject to a less rigorous standard, it is no longer controlling. Requiring strict scrutiny is the best way to ensure that courts will consistently give racial classifications a detailed examination, as to both ends and means. It is not true that strict scrutiny is strict in theory, but fatal in fact. Government is not disqualified from acting in response to the unhappy persistence of both the practice and the lingering effects of racial discrimination against minority groups in this country. When race-based action is necessary to further a compelling interest, such action is within constitutional constraints if it satisfies the "narrow tailoring" test set out in this Court's previous cases. Pp. 235-237. 3. Because this decision alters the playing field in some important respects, the case is remanded to the lower courts for further consideration. The Court of Appeals did not decide whether the interests served by the use of subcontractor compensation clauses are properly described as "compelling." Nor did it address the question of narrow tailoring in terms of this Court's strict scrutiny cases. Unresolved questions also remain concerning the details of the complex regulatory regimes implicated by the use of such clauses. Pp. 237-238.

Justice Scalia agreed that strict scrutiny must be applied to racial classifications imposed by all governmental actors, but concluded that government can never have a "compelling interest" in discriminating on the basis of race in order to "make up" for past racial discrimination in the opposite direction. Under the Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. We are just one race in the eyes of government. P. 239.

O'Connor, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion with respect to Parts I, II, III-A, III-B, III-D, and IV, which was for the Court except insofar as it might be inconsistent with the views expressed in the concurrence of Scalia, J., and an opinion with respect to Part III-C. Parts I, II, III-A, III-B, III-D, and IV of that opinion were joined by Rehnquist, C. J., and Kennedy and Thomas, JJ., and by

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