What is United States v. Fordice?
Following 17 years of litigation, Mississippi’s public university remained segregated by race. The state of Mississippi had operated legally segregated universities, but adopted race-neutral policies to dismantle the de jure segregated school system.
United States v. Fordice is a landmark United States Supreme Court case that resulted in an overwhelming ruling that eight public universities in the state had not sufficient integrated and that the state was required to take affirmative action to change its social dynamic under the Equal Protection Clause.
The case of United States v. Fordice was held in 1991 and dealt primarily with segregation in public school systems. Under the old system, students were allowed to choose which school to attend. That said, their choices produced nearly all black and all white universities.
United States v. Fordice: The Question
The question surrounding United States v. Fordice revolved around whether the state of Mississippi had met its affirmative duty according to the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
United States v. Fordice: Ruling
In United States v. Fordice, the court found that, although the state of Mississippi had eliminated explicit prohibitions on the admission of African-American students to institutions of higher learning, the Court of appeals had not adequately reviewed the set of discriminatory policies utilized by the state to suppress African-American enrollment at said institutions.
The case of United States v. Fordice was decided via an 8 to 1 vote for the United States. The court ruled that the state of Mississippi failed to meet its affirmative duty under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. In United States v. Fordice, the court stated that a state’s duty is not discharged until it removes practices and policies that continue to foster segregation. Race-neutral admissions were not deemed a sufficient corrective action and that different admissions criteria and varying missions for university systems may possess racially discriminatory effects. In general, the court in United States v. Fordice ruled that the state’s practices perpetuated the old system and fostered segregation.
The court in United States v. Fordice did not declare the present Mississippi system as unconstitutional, but instead, stated that the state had not done enough to eliminate segregation. As a ruling in United States v. Fordice, the Justices turned the matter back to state officials and to the local court systems to determine what must be accomplished to fulfill the state’s duty under the Constitution.