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Rational basis review, in U.S. constitutional law, refers to a level of scrutiny applied by courts when deciding cases presenting constitutional due process or equal protection issues related to the Fifth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment. Rational basis is the lowest level of scrutiny that a court applies when engaging in judicial review. The higher levels of scrutiny include intermediate scrutiny and strict scrutiny. Rational basis is the default level of review; [1] however, rational basis review does not usually apply in situations where a suspect or quasi-suspect classification is involved, or a fundamental right is implicated.

Contents

Overview

The rational basis review tests whether a governmental action is a reasonable means to an end that may be legitimately pursued by the government. This test requires that the governmental action be “rationally related” to a “legitimate” government interest.[2] [3] Under this standard of review, the “legitimate interest” does not have to be the government’s actual interest. Rather, if the court can merely hypothesize a “legitimate” interest served by the challenged action, it will withstand the rational basis review.[4]

History

The rational basis review received its origin from the means-ends test used by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819. The actual introduction of the rational basis review came in 1938 in the case of the United States v. Carolene Products Co. where rational basis became separate and distinct from strict scrutiny.

Applicability

In modern constitutional law, the rational basis test is applied to constitutional challenges of both federal law and state law (via the Fourteenth Amendment). This test also applies to both legislative and executive action whether those actions be of a substantive or procedural nature.

Rational Basis with Bite

Application of the rational basis test almost always means a ruling favorable to the government, as the Court will normally show deference under the rational basis test. However, in certain cases where a "quasi-suspect" class is involved and the interest involved is also strong, the Supreme Court seems to give the rational basis test more "bite" or "teeth". In Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Plyler v. Doe, and Romer v. Evans, the Court purported to use the rational basis test, and yet it overturned the challenged law in each of these cases. The difference between the "rational basis" test and the "rational basis with bite" test is whether the court tries to come up with its own ideas for legitimate government interests, or whether the court insists that the government have already stated that interest prior to the ruling. Practically, the Court almost never strikes down a law under rational basis review; when it does, the case is often said to have been decided using "rational basis with a bite."

See also

References

  1. ^ www.brianpedigo.com/.../Constitutional%20Law%20-%20Semester%201.doc
  2. ^ United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938).
  3. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-rubysachs/equal-potection-in-florid_b_147325.html
  4. ^ Sullivan, Kathleen M. & Gunther Gerald. Constitutional Law. Foundation Press, New York, NY. 16th Ed. Chapter 9 (2007).

External links

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