Gratz v. Bollinger

PETITIONER: Jennifer Gratz
RESPONDENT: Lee Bollinger et al.
LOCATION: 1220 Student Activities Building - Undergraduate Admissions

DOCKET NO.: 02-516
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

CITATION: 539 US 244 (2003)
ARGUED: Apr 01, 2003
DECIDED: Jun 23, 2003
GRANTED: Dec 02, 2002

John A. Payton - Argued the cause for the respondent
Kirk O. Kolbo - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Theodore B. Olson - as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioners

Facts of the case

The University of Michigan’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) considers a number of factors in its evaluative process, such as high school grades, standardized test scores, curriculum strength, alumni relationships, geography, and leadership. The OUA also considers race and admits virtually every qualified applicant from certain groups determined to be “underrepresented minorities.” Beginning in 1998, the OUA used a point system in which students were awarded an additional 20 points for being a member of an underrepresented minority, and beginning in 1999, the University established an Admissions Review Committee to provide an additional level of consideration.

In 1995, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher both applied for admission to the University of Michigan’ College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) as residents of the state of Michigan. Both are of Caucasian descent. Both were denied admission and told that, although they were qualified, they were not competitive enough applicants to be admitted on first review. In October 1997, Gratz and Bollinger filed a class action suit against the University, the LSA, Lee Bollinger, and James Duderstadt. They argued that the admission procedure discriminated against certain racial and ethnic groups in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court held that the respondents had shown that a racially and ethnically diverse student body produced significant academic benefits but that the admission policies of 1995-1998 were problematic because they amounted to “holding seats” for certain minority groups. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment for the petitioners with respect to the admissions policies for 1995-1998 and for the respondents with respect to the policy that began in 1999. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard this case the same day as Grutter v. Bollinger, a similar case, and upheld the University’s admission policies in that case. The petitioners in this case then asked the Court to grant certiorari, despite the lack of opinion from the lower court, to resolve the issue.


Did the University of Michigan’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Media for Gratz v. Bollinger

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 01, 2003 in Gratz v. Bollinger

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 23, 2003 in Gratz v. Bollinger

William H. Rehnquist:

The second opinion which I have to announce is in the case of 02-516, Jennifer Gratz versus Lee Bollinger.

Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher both applied for admission to the University of Michigan's undergraduate College of Literature, Science, and Arts, unlike the law school case which Justice O'Connor just announced.

Both were denied admission.

They subsequently filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court alleging that the University's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1981 of Title 42 of U.S. Code.

The District Court certified a class consisting of those individuals who unsuccessfully applied for admission to the undergraduate program from 1995 forward, and who are members of those groups that respondents treated less favorably on the basis of race and considering their applications for admission.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions of Michigan (OUA) oversees the LSA admissions process.

OUA considers a number of factors in making admissions decision including high school grade, standardized test scores, high school quality, geography, alumni relationships, and leadership.

OUA also considers race.

The University considers African-Americans, Hispanics, and native Americans to be underrepresented minority.

The University has changed its admission program several times during the course of this litigation.

The current program employs a selection index on which an applicant can score a maximum of 150 points.

This index is divided lineally into ranges generally calling for admission's dispositions based on an applicants calculated score.

A score of 100 points guarantees admission.

Each applicant receives point based on the factors considered by the OUA.

An applicant is entitled to 20 points based upon membership and an underrepresented minority group.

The University also provides an additional level of review for some applications and that counsellors may flag an application for committee review after determining that the applicant has met certain criteria.

The committee then determines whether to admit these applicants.

The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment.

The District Court determined that the current admissions program is a narrowly tailored means of achieving the University's asserted interest in a diverse student body.

The Court also found, however, that the admissions prgram used from 1995 to 1998 operated as the functional equivalent of a quota.

Thus, the Court granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment with respect to that program and respondent's, the university's, motion as to the current program.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard this case en banc along with Grutter against Bollinger, the law school case.

The Court issued an opinion in Grutter, and the petitioner in that case sought this Court's review which it has obtained.

Petitioner's asked this Court to grant certiorari in this case is well despite the fact that the Sixth Circuit had not yet rendered a judgment.

We did so.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk of the Court today, we reverse the judgment of the District Court upholding the constitutionality of the Michigan Undergraduate Admissions Program.

We hold that Hamacher have standing to seek his perspective relief with respect to the University's continued use of race in admission.

Thus, we turn to the merits of petitioner's claim.

We hold that the University's current policy which distributes 20 points to every underrepresented minority applicant solely because of race is not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents asserted interest in diversity.

In the Bakke case, Justice Powell emphasized the importance of considering each particular applicant as an individual assessing all of the qualities that individual possesses and in turn evaluating that individual's ability to contribute to the unique setting of higher education.