Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena
515 U.S. 200 (1995)
- The Department of
Transportation (DOT) awarded a construction contract to Mountain Gravel.
Mountain Gravel then hired Gonzales as a subcontractor.
- Gonzales won, despite the
fact that another subcontractor, Adarand, submitted a lower bid.
- Gonzales won because the
DOT gave Mountain Gravel financial incentives to employ subcontractors
that are owned or controlled by "socially and economically
- Adarand sued, claiming that
the financial incentives were a violation of the Equal Protection
Clause of the 5th
- Adarand argued that they had
been discriminated against on the basis of race, and that was a clear
violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
- The Trial Court found for DOT.
- The Appellate Court affirmed.
- The Appellate Court reviewed
DOT's policy based on the guidance the US Supreme Court provided in Metro
Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC (497 U.S.
- In Metro, the Court had created a two-tiered system
for analyzing racial classifications.
- Metro was a reversal of the previous guidance the
Court gave in Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (488 U.S. 469 (1989)), where they held strict
scrutiny was the proper level of review.
- The US Supreme Court reversed
and remanded under the strict scrutiny
- The US Supreme Court
overruled the decision in Metro
and found that since this policy involved a suspect classification,
the level of review should be strict scrutiny.
- That's a return to the
holding in Croson.
- The Court found that the
standard of review should not be based on which party is discriminated,
but on whether there was discrimination at all.
- The Court found that all
racial classifications under the Equal Protection Clause are under strict scrutiny.
- That includes
affirmative-action programs like this one, in addition to those that
discriminate against minorities.
- Note that since this was a
Federal case, it falls under the 5th Amendment, but the ruling encompasses the same analysis
as 14th Amendment