Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, 27 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

It is by now well established that "all racial classifications reviewable under the Equal Protection Clause must be strictly scrutinized." Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200, 224 (1995). This " 'standard of review . . . is not dependent on the race of those burdened or benefited by a particular classification.' " Ibid. (quoting Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S. 469, 494 (1989) (plurality opinion)). Thus, "any person, of whatever race, has the right to demand that any governmental actor subject to the Constitution justify any racial classification subjecting that person to unequal treatment under the strictest of judicial scrutiny." Ada-rand, 515 U. S., at 224.

To withstand our strict scrutiny analysis, respondents must demonstrate that the University's use of race in its current admissions program employs "narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests." Id., at 227. Because "[r]acial classifications are simply too pernicious to permit any but the most exact connection between justification and classification," Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U. S. 448, 537 (1980) (Stevens, J., dissenting), our review of whether such requirements have been met must entail " 'a most searching examination.' " Adarand, supra, at 223 (quoting Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267, 273 (1986) (plurality opinion of Powell, J.)). We find that the University's policy, which automatically distributes 20 points, or one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission, to every single "underrepresented minority" applicant solely because of race, is not narrowly tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity that respondents claim justifies their program.

In Bakke, Justice Powell reiterated that "[p]referring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake." 438 U. S., at 307. He then explained, however, that in his view it would be permissible for a university to employ an admissions program in which "race or ethnic background may be

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