Strict Scrutiny

(redirected from Compelling governmental interest)

Strict Scrutiny

A standard of Judicial Review for a challenged policy in which the court presumes the policy to be invalid unless the government can demonstrate a compelling interest to justify the policy.

The strict scrutiny standard of judicial review is based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Federal courts use strict scrutiny to determine whether certain types of government policies are constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has applied this standard to laws or policies that impinge on a right explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to vote. The Court has also identified certain rights that it deems to be fundamental rights, even though they are not enumerated in the Constitution.

The strict scrutiny standard is one of three employed by the courts in reviewing laws and government policies. The rational basis test is the lowest form of judicial scrutiny. It is used in cases where a plaintiff alleges that the legislature has made an Arbitrary or irrational decision. When employed, the Rational Basis Test usually results in a court upholding the constitutionality of the law, because the test gives great deference to the legislative branch. The heightened scrutiny test is used in cases involving matters of discrimination based on sex. As articulated in Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 97 S. Ct. 451, 50 L. Ed. 2d 397 (1976), "classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to the achievement of those objectives."

Strict scrutiny is the most rigorous form of judicial review. The Supreme Court has identified the right to vote, the right to travel, and the right to privacy as fundamental rights worthy of protection by strict scrutiny. In addition, laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of race are categorized as suspect classifications that are presumptively impermissible and subject to strict scrutiny.

Once a court determines that strict scrutiny must be applied, it is presumed that the law or policy is unconstitutional. The government has the burden of proving that its challenged policy is constitutional. To withstand strict scrutiny, the government must show that its policy is necessary to achieve a compelling state interest. If this is proved, the state must then demonstrate that the legislation is narrowly tailored to achieve the intended result.

The case of roe v. wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973), which invalidated state laws that prohibited Abortion, illustrates the application of strict scrutiny. The Court held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and that this right "is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Based on these grounds, the Court applied strict scrutiny. The state of Texas sought to proscribe all abortions and claimed a compelling State Interest in protecting unborn human life. Though the Court acknowledged that this was a legitimate interest, it held that the interest does not become compelling until that point in pregnancy when the fetus becomes "viable" (capable of "meaningful life outside the mother's womb"). The Court held that a state may prohibit abortion after the point of viability, except in cases where abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother, but the Texas law was not narrowly tailored to achieve this objective. Therefore, the state did not meet its Burden of Proof and the law was held unconstitutional.


Civil Rights; Equal Protection; Sex Discrimination; Voting.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The first point to note is that despite the Court's eloquent (if largely vacuous) defense of the First Amendment's prohibition of compelled noncommercial speech in cases like Barnette and Wooley, (82) in neither of those landmark decisions was there even an arguably compelling governmental interest justifying the compulsion.
At trial, the county will have to show that its zoning decision was narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest, a constitutional standard known as strict scrutiny, the 4th Circuit stated in its published 3-0 decision.
Forsyth County Superior Court Judge John Craig wrote in his order that the central question in the case against HB 959 was whether the state could justify cutting the presumptive interest rate calculation for certain similarly-situated landowners by demonstrating a compelling governmental interest? The answer is obviously no, he wrote in ruling that the interest rate change was arbitrary and capricious and violated the state and US Constitutions.
Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), (1) if a person proves that the federal government has substantially burdened his exercise of religion, even by a rule of general applicability, then the government must show that applying the burden to the person "is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest" and "is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." (2) The test under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), (3) which applies to the states, is similar.
(88.) Whether a compelling governmental interest justifies a burdensome tax is a separate question.
(6) In that case, the Supreme Court rejected prior First Amendment freedom of religion precedent, which required the government to prove it was using the least restrictive means to accomplish a compelling governmental interest if it was going to substantially burden the free exercise of religion.
In this latest abomination from the courts, the three-judge panel concluded that New York and Connecticut's laws banning virtually all semi-auto rifles as "assault weapons" and banning all "high-capacity" magazines, do indeed "burden" and infringe on citizens' rights under the Second Amendment, but they go on to conclude that the states' "compelling governmental interest in public safety and crime prevention" carry greater weight than individuals' rights to self-defense--in spite of the fact that "assault weapons" are rarely used in crime, and laws restricting them and "high-capacity" magazines have proven useless in practical application.
According to the Court, Congress, in passing RFRA, wanted to reaffirm a previously held view that "Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability" unless it "demonstrates that application of the burden to the person--(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." (8) Moreover, RFRA, as adopted by Congress in 1993, specifically states that it applies to all federal and state law and the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after enactment of the Act.
This requires that the law must have been passed to further a "compelling governmental interest" and be "narrowly tailored" to that purpose.
Hobbs, the Supreme Court identified this as a compelling governmental interest. Therefore, this case instructs chaplains to review what a substantial burden means and determine the least-restrictive means to achieve a compelling government interest.
the contraceptive mandate [was] 'the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.'" (177) In an attempt to show that the government failed to meet this test, religious objectors suggested a number of alternatives to forcing employers to violate their religious principles.