Summary of Defunis v. Odegaard
Citation: 416 U.S. 312
Relevant Facts: DeFunis has applied to the University of Washington Law School, but was denied although his test scores were considerably higher than some of the minority students that had been admitted. DeFunis had petitioned a trial court to require that the school admit him, which it did. When the matter was appealed by the school, the Washington Supreme Court reversed the decision, upholding the initial decision to deny DeFunis entry into the law school. The U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the matter, at roughly the time DeFunis was beginning his final year of law school elsewhere.
Issues: The legal question presented was whether the case was a moot issue since DeFunis had already matriculated, and thus outside the scope of judicial review.
Holding: The Court held that yes, the issue was moot.
Reasoning: The Supreme Court reasoned that since the University of Washington Law School had agreed to admit DeFunis, the case was in effect moot. Since DeFunis would have completed his legal studies and earned his degree by the time of a decision, that fact of mootness was driven home even further. The Court ruled that the dispute between the parties had “clearly ceased to be ‘definite and concrete’ and no longer ‘touch[ed] the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests.'”
Dissent: Justices Douglas and Brennan dissented, arguing that because of the profound social significance of the case (affirmative action vs. reverse discrimination-affirmative action), the matter should have been resolved despite its mootness.