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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
No. 90-6588
(Argued the cause for the petitioner Ayers)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(Argued the cause for the respondents in both cases)
Facts of the Case 

After 17 years of litigation, Mississippi's public university system remained racially divided. The state had operated legally segregated universities, but had since adopted race-neutral policies to dismantle its de jure segregated system. All students could choose which school to attend, though the choices produced nearly all white and all black institutions of higher learning. This case was decided together with that of Ayers v. Fordice.


Has Mississippi met its affirmative duty under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to dismantle its prior dual university system?

Decision: 8 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

No. A state's duty is not discharged "until it eradicates policies and practices traceable to its prior de jure dual system that continues to foster segregation." Race-neutral admissions are not a sufficient corrective to constitutional violations of a dual system. Different admissions criteria, and different missions for university system components, may have racially discriminatory effects perpetuating the old system. The Court did not declare the present system unconstitutional, only that Mississippi had not done enough to eliminate segregation. The Justices turned the matter back to state officials -- and to the courts -- to determine what must be done to fulfill its duty under the Constitution.

Cite this Page
UNITED STATES v. FORDICE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1205>.
UNITED STATES v. FORDICE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1205 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. FORDICE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1205.