Strict Scrutiny

3. The “Strict Scrutiny” standard applies in cases where there is an allegation of a fourteenth amendment violation that is predicated on race. The Court determined that there are various levels of scrutiny regarding laws or regulations that mention “suspect groups” and afford them differing treatments. The top level of scrutiny is applied to those laws and policies that use race as a determining factor in their provisions.

The “strict scrutiny” standard requires that the law-making body prove that the provision serves a legitimate interest of the government or institution, and that the distinction based on race is necessary to bring about the desired result. The majority applies the “strict scrutiny” rule by emphasizing the legitimacy of the law School’s interest in having a “substantial mass” of minority students in order to engender the entire student body with a realistic world-view with respect to minority viewpoints.

They laud the Law school’s policy as one of holistic considerations, of which one happens to be race, in contrast to a strict numbers-quota system. They thus find that the policy does not violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The dissenting viewpoint, on the other hand, rejects the “critical mass” argument as a compelling interest of the state, rather that the determination of “critical mass” does nothing more than assuring the status of the school as a prestigious one among comparable institutions.

This, according to the dissent, fails to meet the standards of the “strict scrutiny” evaluation. The reason given for this determination is that the goal of cross cultural citizenship is neither teachable in law School, nor an appropriate topic for teaching therein. The crux of the disagreement appears to be whether the policy of the Law School represents a veiled quota system (unconstitutional) or a true attempt at obtaining a “critical mass” of minority groups necessary for the legitimate purpose of teaching diversity of minority opinions and citizenship to all of its students.

4. The “narrow tailoring” requirement is the idea that the state’s policy is specifically suited to meet its stated legitimate goal of the state’s interest, and can be in now way misconstrued as an effort to use race as a standard per se. The majority opinion makes certain inferences with respect to the law School’s policy that allow them to classify the policy as “narrowly tailored” to meet the compelling interests of the school.

They infer first that the “cultural mass” argument succeeds and a compelling interest of the school, and that the “race-as-a-plus” standard used by the school does not equate to a quota system. Justices Rheinquist and Kennedy, in contrast draw different inferences from the facts that do the majority. They reject the “critical mass” argument as one of compelling interest of the school, by pointing out that the numbers point to the policy being little other than a thinly veiled quota system.

The lack of fluctuation illustrated in the Law School’s numbers reflects an unwillingness to provide the flexibility necessary to infer that he “critical mass” policy is the one being pursued. The dissent, then rejects both the “critical mass” as a compelling interest, and the notion that the policy obtains this goal without resorting to a thinly disguised quota system.