By John S. McClenahen Because it promised to further define the legal scope of affirmative action programs, Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Mineta (No. 00-730) has been one of the most closely watched cases of the U.S. Supreme Court's current term. At the heart of the case: the extent to which affirmative action plans must serve a "compelling" government purpose and focus on specific past discrimination. Those questions, as they apply to alleged reverse discrimination in the Adarand case, remain unanswered. On Nov. 27 the High Court took the unusual step of saying it had made a mistake in accepting the case for review. After receiving complete briefs and hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court decided it wasn't clear that Adarand had "standing" to challenge the U.S. Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. Nor, stated the justices unanimously, had a court of appeals considered whether "the various race-based programs applicable to direct federal contracting could satisfy strict scrutiny." In short, the Court decided not to decide the case on procedural grounds.