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the Court reaffirmed that any conceivable legislative purpose is sufficient and even went so far as to say that “those attacking the rationality of the legislative classifications have the burden to negate every conceivable basis which might support it.
If any conceivable purpose is sufficient, very few laws will fail the rational basis test. On the other hand, those who defend the Supreme Court point out that rarely is there a single, identifiable purpose for a law.
The Court upheld an ordinance that banned all advertising on the sides of trucks unless the ad was for the business of the truck’s owner.
The Court concluded that the government might have perceived some difference among the ads. The Court stated that Congress may “go one step at a time” and therefore only include one group at a time while enacting legislation.
New York City Transit Authority v. Beazer
The Court upheld a city’s regulation that prevented with in a methadone maintenance programs from holding positions with the NYTA. Although a strong a majority of users were drug-free, the Court accepted the argument there was no more precise and cost-effective way to promote safety other than a total ban.
The Court held unconstitutional a law the excluded households with unrelated people from obtaining food stamps. The Court explained the express congressional purpose of discriminating against “hippies” could not constitute a legitimate purpose.
The Court declared unconstitutional a law that required a special permit for the operation of a group home for the mentally disabled. The city proffered numerous reasons but the court held all were based on prejudices against the mentally disabled.
The Court often allows substantial underinclusiveness in order for the government to move “one step at a time,” but it seems here the court applied rational basis with a “bite*.”
The Court declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and broadly held that slaves were property. The Court held that the Framers did not intend to extend the privileges and protections of U.S. citizens to slaves.
They held that slaves could not become citizens but that the Constitution only conferred the duty of the government to protect property owners’ rights.
Korematsu v. United States (only case to be upheld…)
The Court upheld an evacuation of Japanese-Americans from a “military area,” after receiving evidence from the military of imminent danger to the public safety. The law was designed as a protection against espionage and sabotage.”
The government used race alone as a classification and was enormously overinclusive (all J-P were interned because a few may be disloyal) and underinclusive (those of other races who posed a threat were not interned).
The Court declared unconstitutional a state’s miscegenation statute that made it a crime for a white person to marry outside the Caucasian race.
Regardless that the law punishes equally both the white and Negro participants, mere “equal application” of a statute containing racial classifications does not diminish the racial discrimination.
The Court denied a father’s attempt to obtain child custody of daughter by filing petition to modify the prior judgment because the child’s mother was now cohabitating with a Negro, whom she married.
Private biases and the possible injury they might inflict are not permissible considerations for removal of an infant child from custody of its natural mother.
The Court upheld laws that mandated that blacks and whites use “separate, but equal facilities.” The Court explicitly addressed the claim that such laws are based on an assumption of the inferiority of blacks and thus stigmatize them with a second-class status.
“We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”
Brown v. Board of Education
The Court, in a unanimous decision, held that separate but equal was impermissible in the realm of public education.
The Court stated that historical sources are inconclusive as to whether separate but equal is constitutional so they looked to the effect of segregation on public education. The Court declared that state-mandated segregation inherently stamps black children as inferior and impairs their education opportunities.
Johnson v. California
The Court held that strict scrutiny must be used in evaluating routine racial segregation of prisoners. Prison officials argued racial segregation was necessary to prevent gang violence. The government claimed the segregation did not constitute discrimination because everyone was treated equally. The Court rejected this saying “separate but equal” is not acceptable.
The Supreme upheld a law requiring all candidates for the Washington, D.C. to take an entrance exam; statistics showed that blacks failed much more often than whites.
The Court held that proof of a discriminatory impact is insufficient, by itself, to show the existence of a racial classification.
This means that laws that are facially neutral as to race and national origin will receive more than rational basis review only if there is proof of a discriminatory purpose (see Mobile v. Bolden below). A discriminatory or disparate impact will not be enough.
The Court held that proof of discrimination impact in the administration of the death penalty was insufficient to show an equal protection violation. Although statistics showed racial inequality in the imposition of capital punishment, for the defendant to demonstrate an equal protection violation, he “must prove that the decisionmakers in his case acted with discriminatory purpose.
Because the defendant could not prove that the prosecutor or jury in his case was biased, no equal protection violation existed.
In some cases, the remedy is simply invalidating the discriminatory law. In some cases, the Court must go further and fashion an injunction. For example, in desegregation cases, the Court will generally issue an order prohibiting the offending conducts.
Because schools tend to serve neighborhoods and residential segregation was prevalent, desegregating schools proved extremely difficult. Segregation was made almost impossible due to an absence of a substantial number of white students in city school systems.
The Court entered a unanimous decision that separate but equal was impermissible in the realm of public education. Brown involved a challenge to the segregation of a Kansas public school.
The Court declared that state-mandated segregation inherently stamps black children as inferior and impairs their educational opportunities.
segregation in practice but not by law; this constitutes a constitutional violation only if there is proof of discriminatory purpose
Here, the government must prove that there was some discriminatory or disparate impact as of 1954 before obtaining a court order to desegregate.
Proof of racial separation in schools is not sufficient to establish an equal protection violation or provide a basis for federal court remedies. As is true in other areas of equal protection law, there must be either proof of laws that mandated segregation or evidence of intentional acts to segregate the schools.
Proof of intentional discrimination as to a substantial part of the school system will justify a system wide remedy; unless the school system can demonstrate that the segregation in those areas was not a consequence of its segregative acts.
The Court held that “without an interdistrict violation and interdistrict effect there is no constitutional wrong calling for an interdistrict remedy.
As a result, white students were not bussed into city schools nor blacks bussed to suburban schools. This is because multidistrict remedies are only available if multidistricts’ policies fostered discrimination or is a state law caused the interdistrict segregation.
Oklahoma schools had previously been segregated by a state mandate; but the segregation had been corrected. Evidence proved ending the mandate would result in resegregation.
The Court ruled that once a “unitary” school system had been achieved, a federal court’s desegregation order should end, even if it will mean resegregation of the schools.
The Court said that the desegregation should be ended if the board “has complied in good faith” and “the vestiges of past discrimination have been eliminated to the extent practice.”
The Court ordered an end to a school desegregation order of the Kansas City schools. The Court held there was no proof of an interdistrict violation and that the social reality is that many city school systems are now primarily composed of minorities and suburban schools of whites.
Applying Milliken, offering incentives to attract students from outside the district was impermissible because there was no interdistrict violation.
Finally, the Court ruled that the continued disparity in student test scores did not justify continuance of the federal court’s desegregation order: equal opportunity does not mean equal results.
Racial balance between local high school districts is not a compelling government interest under the Equal Protection Clause. Voluntarily adopting a student assignment plan requiring minimum and maximum enrollment percentages for black students violate the Equal Protection Clause.
Here the issue is pure numerical racial balancing, not admission based on criteria which included racial diversity as only one factor.
The Supreme Court held in Pasadena City Board of Education v. Spangler that redrawing attendance lines on an annual basis to prevent blacks from being a majority in any district was unconstitutional because residential shifts were inevitable in cities and that they might alter the racial composition of the schools.
In Dowell, the Court held that a segregation decree should end once a unitary school system has been achieved; regardless if resegregation would result. Furthermore, the decree should end once the board has complied in good faith and the past discrimination has been eliminated to the extent practicable.
In Missouri v. Jenkins, the Court held there was no proof of interdistrict violation and that the reality is that cities are primarily comprised of minority students and suburbs of white students. Without proof of interdistrict discrimination or state action, interdistrict remedies are improper.
In Adarand, the Court held that federal affirmative action efforts are to be treated the same as those by state and local governments. Thus, the Court is unlikely to accept affirmative action efforts where there is neither proof of discrimination by the entity nor proof that the particular recipients’ rights were violated.
Under current law, affirmative action will only be allowed if it is directed at entities that are proven victims of that discrimination while it is unclear if the Court will allow affirmative action directed at particular entities or sectors of the economy where discrimination has been proved to occur, but where the beneficiaries are not themselves the proved victims of this discrimination.
The Court has made it clear that numerical set-asides will be allowed, if at all, only if needed to remedy clearly proven past discrimination (i.e.,Bakke).
In Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., the Court invalidated an affirmative action program in Richmond, VA, that set aside 30 percent of public works monies for minority-owned businesses. This was due to the fact that it was not narrowly tailored enough here because it also benefited “Spanish-speaking, oriental, Indian, Eskimo or Aleut persons…that may never have suffered from discrimination in the construction industry in Richmond.
The Court indicated two ways in which it can be demonstrated that race was used in drawing election districts and thus strict scrutiny is to be applied. One is if a district has a “bizarre” shape that, in itself, makes clear that race was the basis for drawing the lines.
Alternatively, if the use of race in districting cannot be inferred from the shape of the district, strict scrutiny is justified if it is proved that race was a “predominant” factor in drawing the lines.
The Court has stated, “strict scrutiny does not apply merely because redistricting is performed with consciousness of race. For strict scrutiny to apply, the plaintiffs must prove that other legitimate districting principles were ‘subordinate’ to race.” The views of the Justice Department about the desirability of maximizing minority districts do not constitute a compelling interest sufficient to meet strict scrutiny.
The Court considered the constitutionality of districts for congressional seats in North Carolina. The Court was clear that the government may use race as a factor in districting if the goal is political, such as protecting a safe seat for an incumbent or creating a district which has a majority of one political party.
Note: the Court accepted the use of race to create a majority Democrat district because African-American in North Carolina vote Democrat 95% of the time.
The Court upheld a minimum wage law for women, declaring: “What can be closer to public interest than the health of women and their protection from unscrupulous and overreaching employers?”
Here, the government interest was the protection of women.
Since there was no majority supporting strict scrutiny, the level of scrutiny remained uncertain. 4 Justices desired strict scrutiny, 3 Justices agreed with the result but did not approve of strict scrutiny, and 1 Justice dissented.
A federal law allowed a man to automatically claim his wife as a dependent and thereby receive greater medical benefits. A woman, however, only could do so if she could prove her spouse was dependent on her for over half of his support.
The Court finally agreed upon intermediate scrutiny as the appropriate level of review for gender classification.
The Court declared unconstitutional an Oklahoma law that allowed women to buy alcohol at age 18 but men could not until age 21. Although a traffic safety is undoubtedly an “important” government interest, gender discrimination was not substantially related to that objective.
The Court applied intermediate scrutiny to declare unconstitutional a state nursing school that was available only to women.
The Court stated: “Rather than compensate for discriminatory barriers faced by women, MUW’s policy tends to perpetuate the stereotyped view of nursing as an exclusively woman’s job. By assuring more openings to women than to men, MUW lends credibility to the old view that women, not men, should be nurses.
The Court declared unconstitutional the exclusion of women by the Virginia Military Institute. Virginia created Virginia’s Women’s Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin College but the Court found this insufficient to excuse VMI’s gender discrimination; women were still denied an opportunity available only to men.
The Court (GINSBURG) stated: “The burden of justification [for gender based classifications] is demanding and it rests entirely on the State. The justification must not rely on overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of males and females.”
The Court upheld a state’s statutory rape law that punished men for having sexual intercourse with a woman under age 18, but did not punish women for having sex with a man under age 18.
The Court held that the state could attack the problem of teenage pregnancy and sexual activity by regulating and punishing men, but not women but virtually all of the significant harmful and inescapably identifiable consequences of teenage pregnancy fall on the female.
Furthermore, a gender-neutral law was less likely to be effective because girls would be less likely to file complaints or be witnesses if they, too, faced criminal liability.
Many of the factors that explain the use of strict scrutiny for racial classifications also apply to gender discrimination:
There is a long history of discrimination against women in virtually every aspect of society
Sex, like race and national origin, is an immutable characteristic
Women, like racial minorities, tend to be significantly underrepresented in the political process
The 14th Amendment didn’t exclude women, it was only meant to outlaw racial discrimination; its purpose wasn’t to address sex discrimination
Biological differences between men and women make it more likely that gender classifications will be justified, and thus less than strict scrutiny is appropriate to increase the chances that desirable laws will be upheld
It is claimed that women are a political majority who are not isolated from men and thus cannot be considered a discrete and insular minority.
The Court upheld a California disability law stating that it was not a denial of equal protection for a state’s disability insurance system to exclude pregnancy-related disabilities, but include disabilities affecting only men.
The program divides potential recipients into two groups: pregnant women and nonpregnant persons. While the first is exclusively female, the second includes males and females. Since this is not a gender classification, it met rational basis review because the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining the fiscal integrity of its program and making choices in allocating funds.
Congress, by statute, effectively overruled Geduldig when it enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which defined sex discrimination to include pregnancy discrimination and prohibits discrimination on that basis.
The Court stated the difference in the rule serves the government’s interest in being sure that there is a biological relationship between the parent and the child. Furthermore, the government interest is to ensure that the child and citizen parent have some demonstrated opportunity or potential to develop a relationship that consists of real, everyday tires that provides a connection between the child and the citizen parent and, in turn, the U.S.
- The Court declared unconstitutional a Texas law that provided a free public education for children of citizens and of documented aliens, but required that undocumented aliens pay for their schooling.
- The Court did not expressly articulate a level of scrutiny, but it did say that “undocumented aliens cannot be treated as a suspect class because their presence in this country in violation of federal law is not a constitutional irrelevancy. Nor is education a fundamental right.”
- It appears that the Court was using intermediate scrutiny in evaluating the discrimination against undocumented alien children with regard to education because the state’s claim of a desire to reserve benefits for its own citizens likely would meet a rational basis test.
§ This is “intermediate scrutiny-ish,” and is somewhere in between rational basis and intermediate scrutiny.
the Court ruled unconstitutional a state law that discriminated against nonmarital children in receiving public assistance. Allowing marital children to receive benefits, but no nonmarital children, violated equal protection.
- The Court upheld a federal law that mandated retirement at age 60 for participants in the Foreign Service Retirement System.
- The Court used the rational basis test and said that it upheld the law because the challenges failed “to demonstrate that Congress has no reasonable basis for believing that conditions overseas generally are more demanding than conditions in the United States and that at age 60 or before many people persons begin something of a decline in mental and physical reliability.”
the Court used the rational basis test to declare unconstitutional a city ordinance that required a special permit for the operation of a group home for the mentally disabled.
It can be argued that the Court’s review was more rigorous than usual for rational basis analysis. Under traditional basis review significant under-inclusiveness is tolerated and the government may proceed one step at a time.
Note: Although disability classifications receive only rational basis review under the equal protection clause, a federal statute broadly prohibits such discrimination: the Americans with Disabilities Act.
the Court upheld a state law that put a cap on welfare benefits to families regardless of their size: children in larger families would receive less per person than those in smaller families. The Court accepted the state’s interest in allocating scarce public benefits as sufficient to justify the law.
The fear of allowing content-based regulation is that the government will target particular messages and attempt to control thoughts on a topic by regulating speech. The government could try to control dissent and advance its own interests by stopping speech that expresses criticism of government policy, while allowing praise. A subject matter restriction on speech can accomplish the same goal.
- The Court declared unconstitutional a D.C. ordinance that prohibited the display of signs critical of a foreign government within 500 feet of that government’s embassy.
- The law, in its very terms, drew a distinction among speech based on the view point expressed.
- The law restricted speech that is likely to be embarrassing to a foreign government, but allows that which is supportive.
- The Court found that a law which regulated only sexual speech was a subject matter restriction and had to meet strict scrutiny. A provision of the Act prohibited “signal bleeding” of sexual images; signal bleeding occurs when people receive images from cable stations to which they do not subscribe.
- The law is content based because it applies only to channels primarily dedicated to sexually explicit adult programming or other programming that is indecent. That law is unconcerned with other channels, focusing only on the content of the speech and its impact on listeners.
- The Court struck down a federal law which regulated sexually oriented commercial websites. The law required that such websites do age verification and provided several ways in which they could do so.
- The law was a content based restriction of speech, applying only to sexual speech. As a possible less restrictive alternative, filtering devices could be installed on individual computers.
- The Court struck down a law which prohibited candidates for elected judicial offices from making statements about disputed legal or political issues.
- The law was content-based as it prohibited speech on some issues, but allowed it on others.
Renton makes the test of whether a law is content-based or content-neutral not its terms but, rather, its justification. A law that is justified in content-neutral terms is deemed content-neutral even if it is content-based on its face.
(Lynch v. Donnelly)
Displays that have both religious and governmental significance will not be held to violate the Establishment Clause.
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