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City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Company

Citation. 488 U.S. 469, 109 S.Ct. 706, 102 L.Ed2d 854 (1989).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff challenged a city plan which required contract bidders to subcontract at least 30% of the dollar amount of the contract to one or more minority business enterprises (MBEs).

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Classifications based on race must be narrowly tailored and supported by a compelling government interest.


Defendant adopted a five-year plan requiring prime contractors to subcontract at lest 30% of the dollar amount of the contract to one or more Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) located anywhere in the U.S. The Plan declared itself “remedial. The record contained no direct evidence of race discrimination on part of the city in awarding contracts or any evidence that the city’s prime contractors had discriminated against minority-owed subcontractors.

Plaintiff requested a waiver from the requirement after failing to find an MBE supplier. Defendant denied the waiver and Plaintiff sued, arguing the requirement was unconstitutional.


Whether the Plan which requires a certain quota based on race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Yes. The Plan which requires a certain quota based on race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Justice Marshall

Nothing in the Constitution can be construed to prevent Defendant from implementing its plan. My view has long been that race-conscious classifications designed to further remedial goals must serve important government objectives and must be substantially related to achievement of those objectives.

For the first time, a majority of this Court has adopted strict scrutiny. This is an unwelcome dvelopment.


Justice Stevens

I do not agree with the premise that a governmental decision that rests on a racial classification is never permissible except as a remedy for a past wrong.

Defendant has merely engaged in the type of stereotypical analysis that is a hallmark of violations of the Equal Protection Clause.

Justice Kennedy

The moral imperative of racial neutrality is the driving force of the Equal Protection Clause. The record before us demonstrates not a remedy, but a preference.

Justice Scalia

I do not agree that state and local governments may in some circumstances discriminate on the basis of race in order to ameliorate the effects of past discrimination.


Defendant’s plan denies certain citizens the opportunity to compete for a fixed percentage of public contracts based on race. Such classifications based on race carry a danger of stigmatic harm. A generalized assertion that there has been past discrimination in an entire industry provides no guidance for a legislative body to determine the precise scope of the injury it seeks to remedy. It has no logical stopping point.

The 30% quota cannot in any realistic sense be tied to any injury suffered by anyone. Many of the barriers identified appear to be race neutral. If Defendant had evidence that non-minority contractors were systematically excluding minority businesses subcontractors, this would be a different case. Judgement affirmed.

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