Chickasaw Nation v. United States, 534 U.S. 84, 4 (2001)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

No. 00-730. Argued October 31, 2001—Decided November 27, 2001

In Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200 (Adarand I), this

Court held that strict scrutiny governs whether race-based classifications violate equal protection and remanded for a determination whether the race-based components of the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program could survive such review. The District Court then found that no such component could survive, but the Tenth Circuit vacated and this Court again reversed and remanded, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Slater, 528 U. S. 216 (per curiam). Subsequently, the Tenth Circuit held, inter alia, that new regulations issued under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) pertain almost exclusively to the use of federal funds for highway projects let by States and localities, the only relevant aspect of the DBE program under review; that petitioner lacked standing and had waived its right to challenge any other race-conscious program; and that under the new regulatory framework, the DBE program being reviewed was constitutional. When this Court again granted certiorari to decide whether the Tenth Circuit misapplied Adarand I, it appeared that petitioner was challenging the DBE program as it pertains to the use of federal funds for state and local highway projects. Petitioner now asserts that it is challenging only the statutes and regulations pertaining to DOT's direct procurement of highway construction on federal lands.

Held: The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted. The direct procurement statutes and regulations are quite different from the ones the Tenth Circuit reviewed. While state and local procurement is governed by the Transportation Secretary under TEA-21, direct federal procurement is governed by the Small Business Act and regulations promulgated thereunder. The shift in this case's posture requires dismissal of the writ for two reasons. First, this Court held in Adarand I that application of the strict scrutiny standard should be addressed in the first instance by the lower courts. However, the Tenth Circuit has not considered whether race-based programs applicable to direct federal contracting could satisfy strict scrutiny, and the Government has not addressed such programs in its merits brief. Second, to reach the merits of any challenge to the direct procurement statutes and regulations


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