Suspect Classification

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Suspect Classification

A presumptively unconstitutional distinction made between individuals on the basis of race, national origin, alienage, or religious affiliation, in a statute, ordinance, regulation, or policy.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that certain kinds of government discrimination are inherently suspect and must be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny. The suspect classification doctrine has its constitutional basis in the Fifth Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and it applies to actions taken by federal and state governments. When a suspect classification is at issue, the government has the burden of proving that the challenged policy is constitutional.

The concept of suspect classifications was first discussed by the Supreme Court in korematsu v. united states, 323 U.S. 214, 65 S. Ct. 193, 89 L. Ed. 194 (1944). The Court upheld the "relocation" of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast during World War II, yet Justice hugo l. black, in his majority opinion, stated that

all legal restrictions which curtail the Civil Rights of a single group are immediately suspect. That is not to say that all such restrictions are unconstitutional. It is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.

Though it is now widely recognized that no compelling justification existed for the relocation order and that racial prejudice rather than national security led to the forced removal of Japanese Americans, Korematsu did signal the Court's willingness to apply the Equal Protection Clause to suspect classifications.

Strict Scrutiny of a suspect classification reverses the ordinary presumption of constitutionality, with the government carrying 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. Although strict scrutiny is not a precise test, it is far more stringent than the traditional Rational Basis Test, which only requires the government to offer a reasonable ground for the legislation.

Race is the clearest example of a suspect classification. For example, the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1817, 198 L. Ed. 2d 1010 (1967), scrutinized a Virginia statute that prohibited interracial marriages. The Court noted that race was the basis for the classification and that it was, therefore, suspect. The Court struck down the law because Virginia failed to prove a compelling State Interest in preventing interracial marriages. Legislation discriminating on the basis of religion or ethnicity, as well as those statutes that affect fundamental rights, also are inherently suspect. The Supreme Court has not recognized age and gender as suspect classifications, though some lower courts treat gender as a suspect or quasi-suspect classification.


Equal Protection; Japanese American Evacuation Cases.

References in periodicals archive ?
(15) In a subsequent case, the Court went further and held that the poor are not a suspect class entitled to special judicial protection from the democratic process.
(32) It has been over forty years since the Court recognized a new suspect class, (33) a determination that triggers heightened scrutiny of laws that discriminate against the class and creates a presumption of unconstitutionality for those laws.
"[S]trict scrutiny of a legislative classification [is required] only when the classification impermissibly.., operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class." (68) Suspect classes that have already been established include race, alienage, (69) and national origin.
(108) The Court thereby avoided answering the suspect class question in Lawrence.
This argument buttresses the already strong reasoning by which the Court should find LGBTs a suspect class and could perhaps serve as the tipping point in the Court's equal protection analysis.
This argument buttresses the already strong reasoning by which the Court could find LGBTs a suspect class and could perhaps serve as the tipping point in the Court's analysis.
(3.) This triggering function was supposed to be the point of suspect class doctrine, according to which a law singling out (say) blacks for adverse treatment raised so powerful a suspicion of improper purpose that only the most exacting showing of necessity could dispel that suspicion.
But the court did not hold that homosexuals constitute a suspect class. Rather, relying on Hunter v.
hold that Hunter is limited to discrimination against discrete and insular minorities but that gays deserve heightened or strict scrutiny notwithstanding Hardwick, md therefore Amendment 2 offends the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against a suspect class;
A thorough understanding of the implications of this argument might eventually allow the courts to elevate persons with disabilities to the status of a "suspect class" deserving of "strict scrutiny" to determine whether legal distinctions based on disability are permissible within the meaning of the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Fifth Amendment encompasses a guarantee of equal protection that prevents the federal government from discriminating against people based on suspect classes, such as religion, the lawmakers wrote.
civil rights laws have traditionally been predicated on the need to create parity and equality for certain suspect classes of individuals.