The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘equal protection’

The Rhetorical Situation of Law, and the Situation of Rhetoric

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 10, 2011

Theresa Beiner recently posted her article, “Shift Happens: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Shifting Antidiscrimination Rhetoric” (forthcoming in University of Toledo Law Review) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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The United States Supreme Court’s discourse on discrimination affects how fundamental civil rights – such as the right to be free from gender and race discrimination – are adjudicated and conceptualized in this country. Shortly after Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Court established precedent that assumed discrimination, absent some other compelling explanation for employer conduct. While the Court was more reluctant to presume such discrimination by governmental actors, it was deferent to Congress’s ability to set standards that would presume discrimination. Over time, however, that presumption and the Court’s deference to Congress has dissipated, and today, the Court actually presumes non-discrimination, absent some evidence that shows an employer or governmental actor was intentionally discriminating. This article will describe the shift in the Supreme Court’s rhetoric over time, with an eye toward trying to understand why this shift has occurred and what the implications of this shift are for those who have suffered discrimination and wish to pursue their rights in court. In addition, this article will consider non-legal sources to determine whether such a shift is warranted by a decrease in race and gender discrimination in American society.

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Download the paper for free here.

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The Legal Situation of Race Equality – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 20, 2008

Ivan Bodensteiner has posted his paper, “The Supreme Court as the Major Barrier to Racial Equality” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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This Article suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court, through its decisions in cases alleging race discrimination, stands as a major barrier to racial equality in the United States. There are several aspects of its decisions that lead to this result. Between 1868 and 1954, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, while it had been interpreted to strike down a few blatant forms of de jure discrimination, allowed government to separate the races based on the separate but equal fiction. Beginning in 1954, Brown and a series of subsequent decisions attacked this fiction and for a period of nearly twenty years the Court was intent on eliminating the vestiges of segregation in the schools, approving broad remedial orders. This changed drastically beginning in 1974 when the Court began limiting the available remedies and relieving school systems of the burdens imposed by court orders. Around the same time, the Court decided that equal protection plaintiffs needed to show a discriminatory governmental purpose in order to trigger meaningful constitutional protection. This meant that facially neutral laws and practices with discriminatory effects were largely constitutional.

Beginning with Bakke in 1978, the Court made it difficult, and eventually nearly impossible, for government to take affirmative steps designed to promote equality. A majority of the Court determined that invidious and benign racial classifications should be treated the same under the Equal Protection Clause, with both subjected to strict scrutiny. This completed the Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment in a manner that makes it a real barrier to racial equality: government is free to engage in invidious discrimination as long as it masks the real purpose, and affirmative steps designed by government to promote equality will be struck down as a violation of equal protection. Ironically, the constitutional amendment designed to promote freedom and equality for the newly-freed slaves now stands in the way of true freedom and equality.

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