Richmond v. J. A. Croson Company

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RICHMOND V. J. A. CROSON COMPANY, 488 U.S. 469 (1989), a Supreme Court case that considered whether the constitutionality of set-asides—affirmative action programs for minority businesses, permitted by a standard of strict scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause—should continue. Since 1942, Congress had approved legislation requiring businesses with federal contracts to draw up action plans for hiring minority workers. Until Croson, however, the Court had not questioned this practice. In 1983 the Richmond, Virginia, city council instituted a set-aside to remedy past discrimination by requiring prime contractors (to whom the city awarded construction contracts) to sub-contract at least 30 percent of each contract's dollar amount to minority business enterprises. Prime contractor J. A. Croson Company did not comply with the program, whereupon the city awarded the contract to another company. Croson challenged the city's 30 percent quota as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. The city responded that the quota merely copied federal policy guidelines. In a six-to-three vote, the Court decided in favor of Croson. The opinion, combined with the decisions in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education (1986) and United States v. Paradise (1987), signaled the Court's increased willingness to limit the states' use of quotas as a remedy for past discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 put an end to this trend and reaffirmed the national commitment to affirmative action.


Kull, Andrew. The Color-Blind Constitution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Urofsky, Melvin I. A Conflict of Rights: The Supreme Court and Affirmative Action. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991.

TonyFreyer/a. r.

See alsoAffirmative Action ; Business, Minority ; Civil Rights Act of 1991 ; Set-Asides .

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Richmond v. J. A. Croson Company

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Richmond v. J. A. Croson Company