For several decades, the Alabama Department of Public Safety excluded blacks from employment as state troopers. Only after a federal district court imposed a hiring quota in the early 1970s did the department finally change its ways. Even then, however, the department failed to promote the black officers it hired. Thereafter, the district court again intervened, this time requiring the department to institute promotion procedures without an adverse impact on black officers. When the department failed to institute such procedures within a timely period, the court imposed a promotion quota until the department developed acceptable promotion procedures of its own. Under the court's scheme, one black officer had to be promoted for every white officer promoted. The United States challenged the court's order, claiming that it violated the EQUAL PROTECTION clause of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT. The Supreme Court disagreed and upheld the order 5?4.
Writing for a plurality, Justice WILLIAM J. BRENNAN noted that members of the Court disagreed about what level of scrutiny to apply to discrimination remedy cases, but argued that this did not matter because the race-conscious remedy under review survived even the Court's highest standard of STRICT SCRUTINY because it was "narrowly tailored" to serve a COMPELLING STATE INTEREST.
Rejecting the strict scrutiny approach in discrimination-remedy cases, Justice JOHN PAUL STEVENS concurred in the judgment, but stressed that the federal judiciary has "broad and flexible authority" to fashion even race-conscious remedies once a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment has occurred.
Justice SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR...