AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

"Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake," said Powell in announcing a ruling that upheld the principle of affirmative action to overcome past discrimination but also ordered the University of California to admit a white male, Allan P. Bakke. Bakke had claimed that the university's quota system denied him entrance to the medical school even though his admission test scores were higher than many of those admitted under a minority preference program. -- University of California Regents v. Bakke, June 28, 1978 DISCRIMINATION

In holding that the Georgia death penalty is not racially discriminatory, Powell wrote for the majority: "Our analysis begins with the basic principle that a defendant who alleges an equal protection violation has the burden of proving the existence of purposeful discrimination . . . a criminal defendant must prove that the purposeful discrimination had a discriminatory effect on him." -- McCleskey v. Kemp, April 22, 1987

"The harm from discriminatory jury selection extends beyond that inflicted on the defendant and the excluded juror to touch the entire community. Selection procedures that purposefully exclude black persons from juries undermine public confidence in the fairness of our system of justice," Powell wrote for the court. The court ruled that prosecutors cannot remove potential jurors just because they are black. -- Batson v. Kentucky, April 30, 1986 PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS

". . . Absent clear evidence of general fame or notoriety in the community, and pervasive involvement in the affairs of society, an individual should not be deemed a public personality for all aspects of his life. It is preferable to reduce the public-figure question to a more meaningful context by looking to the nature and extent of an individual's participation in the particular controversy giving rise to the defamation," Powell wrote for the majority. In endorsing this view, the court found that the press did not enjoy the same protection against libel suits filed by private citizens that it did against suits by public figures. -- Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., June 25, 1974 ABORTION

"It is fair to say that much of the information required is designed not to inform the woman's consent but rather to persuade her to withhold it altogether," Powell wrote for the court, reaffirming the constitutional right to obtain an abortion and striking down a variety of state regulations on abortion. -- Akron v. Akron Center and Akron Center v. Akron, June 15, 1983 EDUCATION

Ruling that wealth is not a "suspect classification" that triggers heightened scrutiny under the Constitution's equal protection clause, Powell rejected a challenge to the traditional system of financing state public school systems chiefly through local property taxes. He wrote for the majority that the justices were "unwilling to assume for ourselves a level of wisdom superior to that of legislators, scholars and educational authorities in 49 states . . . ." Acknowledging that the "need is apparent for reform in tax systems which may well have relied too long and too heavily on the local property tax," Powell said "the ultimate solutions must come from the lawmakers and from the democratic pressures of those who elect them." -- San Antonio Independent School District v.

Rodriguez, March 21, 1973 MENTAL RETARDATION

"Persons who have been involuntarily committed are entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish," read Powell's opinion. The court for the first time established constitutional rights for people committed to institutions for the mentally retarded, including limited guarantees of a minimum level of training. -- Youngberg v. Romero, June 18, 1982 REVIEW OF STATE COURTS

In a case involving murder convictions, Powell wrote that offenders who argued that their convictions in state courts had been obtained with illegally seized evidence may not then raise that issue in federal court. He said the exclusionary rule "deflects the truth-finding process and often frees the guilty," giving the accused a "windfall." -- Stone v. Powell, July 6, 1976