Tompkins v. Alabama State University

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Tompkins v. Alabama State University
NDAla seal.gif
United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Full case nameJesse Tompkins, Audra Beasley, James W. Scott, Rodney Smith v. Alabama State University, Alabama State University Board of Trustees, State of Alabama, Dr. William H. Harris, President of Alabama State University, Dr. Roosevelt Steptoe, President of Academic Affairs, Director of Student Activities, Governor Fob James, Ex–Officio President, Joe L. Reed, Chairman, Frankye U. Underwood, Vice Chairwoman, Richard Arrington, Jr., B. Maxine Corley, James C. Cox, LaRue W. Harding, Toreatha M. Johnson, Larry H. Keener, Patsy D. Parker, Donald V. Watkins
Date decidedMay 1, 1998
Docket nos.97-M-1482-S
Citations15 F. Supp. 2d 1160
Judge sitting Harold Lloyd Murphy
Case history
Subsequent actionsAffirmed, 174 F.3d 203 (11th Cir. 1999); cert. denied, 120 S. Ct. 55 (1999).
Related actionsKnight v. Alabama, 787 F. Supp. 1030 (N.D. Ala. 1991); 900 F. Supp. 272 (N.D. Ala. 1995).

Tompkins v. Alabama State University, 15 F. Supp. 2d 1160 (N.D. Ala. 1998), was a legal case involving affirmative action, that was decided in a United States Federal Court.

Affirmative action, also known as reservation in India and Nepal, positive discrimination in the United Kingdom, and employment equity in Canada and South Africa, is the policy of promoting the education and employment of members of groups that are known to have previously suffered from discrimination. Historically and internationally, support for affirmative action has sought to achieve goals such as bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increasing access to education, promoting diversity, and redressing apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.


This was the first case filed by an African American student to challenge the existing race-based affirmative action admission policy at Alabama State University (ASU) in Montgomery, Alabama. In Tompkins, four black applicants who had been rejected for the Alabama State University white-only scholarship program filed suit to challenge the institution's admissions policy on equal protection grounds, and their case prevailed. To Tompkins, the issue was a simple one: "They said I have to be white and I can't be." "It's strange," says Tompkins. "You have a historically black institution giving scholarships to whites to remedy discrimination." [1]

Alabama State University university

Alabama State University (ASU) is a public historically black university in Montgomery, Alabama. Founded in 1867, ASU is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Montgomery, Alabama Capital of Alabama

Montgomery is the capital city of the U.S. state of Alabama and the county seat of Montgomery County. Named for Richard Montgomery, it stands beside the Alabama River, on the coastal Plain of the Gulf of Mexico. In the 2010 Census, Montgomery's population was 205,764. It is the second most populous city in Alabama, after Birmingham, and is the 118th most populous in the United States. The Montgomery Metropolitan Statistical Area's population in 2010 was estimated at 374,536; it is the fourth largest in the state and 136th among United States metropolitan areas.

Jessie Tompkins is a US athlete and educator from Bessemer, Alabama. Jesse Tompkins attended and ran track for the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama and later graduated from Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Alabama and the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama and later from Alabama State University in Montgomery.


The Knight litigation

Knight v. Alabama commenced on January 15, 1981, when John F. Knight Jr., and a class of other alumni, students, and faculty members of Alabama State University (ASU) filed suit in the Northern District of Alabama to attack alleged vestiges of segregation in public higher education. The court held two trials, resulting in the 1991 Knight I opinion [2] and 1995 Knight II opinion. [3]

The Tompkins litigation

White-Only Scholarship Brochure used by ASU to recruit white student only. The university awarded 40% of its budget for academic grants to whites. White-only.jpg
White-Only Scholarship Brochure used by ASU to recruit white student only. The university awarded 40% of its budget for academic grants to whites.
Tompkins posing in front of U.S. Federal Court House Montgomery, Alabama Jessie Tompkins court.JPG
Tompkins posing in front of U.S. Federal Court House Montgomery, Alabama

On October 1, 1997, Plaintiffs Jessie Tompkins, Audra Beasley, James W. Scott, and Rodney Smith filed the Tompkins lawsuit on behalf of all non-white individuals similarly situated to Plaintiffs. [4] [5] The plaintiffs were influenced by Hopwood v. Texas , [6] which was the first successful legal challenge to a university's affirmative action policy in student admissions since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke . [7]

<i>Hopwood v. Texas</i>

Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932, was the first successful legal challenge to a university's affirmative action policy in student admissions since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. In Hopwood, four white plaintiffs who had been rejected from University of Texas at Austin's School of Law challenged the institution's admissions policy on equal protection grounds and prevailed. After seven years as a precedent in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Hopwood decision was abrogated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

In the Plaintiff's second amended complaint, the plaintiffs outlined class action grounds to eliminate the scholarship's race requirement. The Plaintiffs presented themselves as non-represented black citizens of the State of Alabama, and thus are members of the class certified in the Knight litigation. Plaintiffs claim that the "other-race" scholarships created at Alabama State pursuant to the Court's 1995 Decree in Knight II violate their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the rights guaranteed by 42 U. S. C. Sections 2000d, 1981 and 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. The Plaintiffs named as Defendants the State of Alabama, ASU, the ASU Board of Trustees, and various ASU administrators. The Plaintiffs sought to certify this case as a class action pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Parts 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3).

Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which grants citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. and subject to its jurisdiction and protects civil and political liberties

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments. Arguably one of the most consequential amendments to this day, the amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws and was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves following the American Civil War. The amendment was bitterly contested, particularly by the states of the defeated Confederacy, which were forced to ratify it in order to regain representation in Congress. The amendment, particularly its first section, is one of the most litigated parts of the Constitution, forming the basis for landmark decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) regarding racial segregation, Roe v. Wade (1973) regarding abortion, Bush v. Gore (2000) regarding the 2000 presidential election, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) regarding same-sex marriage. The amendment limits the actions of all state and local officials, including those acting on behalf of such an official.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 legislation

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark civil rights and U.S. labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.

A class action, class suit, or representative action is a type of lawsuit where one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a member of that group. The class action originated in the United States and is still predominantly a U.S. phenomenon, but Canada, as well as several European countries with civil law have made changes in recent years to allow consumer organizations to bring claims on behalf of consumers.

On May 1, 1998, Judge Harold Lloyd Murphy dismissed the Thompson case without prejudice, holding that Tompkins should be permitted to intervene in the ongoing Knight litigation rather than pursue a separate claim. [8] The Eleventh Circuit summarily affirmed Judge Murphy's decision, [9] and the Supreme Court denied certiorari . [10]

Harold Lloyd Murphy is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Certiorari, often abbreviated cert. in the United States, is a process for seeking judicial review and a writ issued by a court that agrees to review. A certiorari is issued by a superior court, directing an inferior court, tribunal, or other public authority to send the record of a proceeding for review.

Subsequent developments

In August 2000, the University and Tompkins failed to settle the case. Tompkins rejected the proposed settlement because he believed that it allowed the University to change the language of the scholarship program's literature, without actually altering who would receive scholarships. [11] Although it was not resolved, the case raised pivotal questions: Should publicly funded historically Black universities offer (to other races) scholarships to diversify their institutions? And, will other-race scholarships guide historically Black universities away from their historical mission?

See also

Related Research Articles

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Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), was a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the majority in a 5–4 decision and joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, ruled that the University of Michigan Law School had a compelling interest in promoting class diversity. The Court held that a race-conscious admissions process that may favor "underrepresented minority groups," but that also took into account many other factors evaluated on an individual basis for every applicant, did not amount to a quota system that would have been unconstitutional under Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The Court applied strict scrutiny that it claimed was made "no less strict" when it followed a "tradition of giving a degree of deference" "within constitutionally prescribed limits" to the university regarding the compelling nature of its interest in diversity.

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NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund other organization in New York, United States

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<i>Glassroth v. Moore</i>

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Browder v. Gayle, 142 F. Supp. 707 (1956), was a case heard before a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on Montgomery and Alabama state bus segregation laws. The panel consisted of Middle District of Alabama Judge Frank Minis Johnson, Northern District of Alabama Judge Seybourn Harris Lynne, and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Rives. On June 5, 1956, the District Court ruled 2-1, with Lynne dissenting, that bus segregation is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment protections for equal treatment.

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  1. June Kronholz, The Wall Street Journal, "Double Reverse Scholarship Program for Whites Becomes a Test of Preferences". 23 December 1997, p. 1
  2. Knight v. Alabama, 787F. Supp.1030 ( N.D. Ala. 1991).
  3. Knight v. Alabama, 900F. Supp.272 (N.D. Ala.1995).
  4. Tompkins v. Alabama State University, 97-M-1482-S (N.D. Ala. 1998).
  5. Malcolm Daniel, The Montgomery Advertiser, Student Fights College Program, ASU Scholarship Program Gains National Attention. 9 January 1998, p. B-1
  6. Hopwood v. Texas , 78F.3d932 ( 5th Cir. 1996).
  7. Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke , 438 U.S. 265 (1978).
  8. Tompkins v. Alabama State University, 15F. Supp. 2d1160 (N.D. Ala.1998).
  9. Tompkins v. Alabama State University, 174F.3d203 ( 11th Cir. 1999).
  10. Tompkins v. Alabama State University,120S. Ct.55(1999).
  11. Montgomery Advertiser, "Discrimination Lawsuit against ASU Likely to end in Courtroom". 8 August 2000, p. B-1