Constitutional Law

Richard Diggs

Political gerrymandering has been a feature of our republic since the early days of the United States. The majority of states in the U.S. allow state legislators to draw the district lines for legislative elections. Legislator-led redistricting is plagued with legislator conflict of interest, producing elections that are spectacularly uncompetitive and rampant with partisanship. In the process, the interests of voters are in conflict with the party and individual interests of legislators, threatening the legitimacy of our republican form of government. The results are often incumbent entrenchment in “safe seats” and overt partisan-based district manipulation. While not necessarily indicative that the will of the people is being usurped by the ambitions of legislators, one must inevitably ask, are voters choosing their legislators or are legislators choosing their voters? Until recently, the Supreme Court has taken a “hands-off” approach to remedying the negative effects of the partisan gerrymandering that occurs in states employing legislator-led redistricting. In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court upheld Arizona voters’ right to transfer redistricting authority from state legislators to an independent commission of citizens via ballot initiative. This Note argues that the delegation theory applied by the Court in the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission decision, and the authority of voters to be the supreme regulators of the political market, is supported by the Framers’ vision of political competition and accountability as articulated in The Federalist Papers.

Trevor W. Morrison & Julie B. Ehrlich
Jessica A. Clarke

Courts routinely begin their analyses of discrimination claims with the question of whether the plaintiff has proven he or she is a “member of the protected class.” Although this refrain may sometimes be an empty formality, it has taken on real bite in a significant number of cases. For example, one court dismissed a claim by a man who was harassed with anti-Mexican slurs because he was of African American rather than Mexican ancestry. Other courts have dismissed sex discrimination claims by LGBT plaintiffs on the ground that LGBT status is not a protected class. Yet other courts have dismissed claims by white people alleging they were harmed by white supremacist violence and straight people alleging they were harmed by homophobic harassment. This Article terms this phenomenon “protected class gatekeeping.” It argues that protected class gatekeeping is grounded in dubious constructions of antidiscrimination statutes, and that its routine use prevents equality law from achieving its central aim: dismantling sexism, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and other such biases. While past scholarship has identified certain forms of protected class gatekeeping, it has not recognized the scope of the problem or addressed the progressive intuitions that underlie it. Critical examination of protected class gatekeeping is of pressing importance as legisla-tures, courts, and legal scholars debate new statutory language and doctrinal frameworks for discrimination claims. 

Trevor W. Morrison & Julie B. Ehrlich
Charles B. Straut
Much work has gone into making sense of Justice Kennedy’s famously unconventional use of the rational basis test in Lawrence v. Texas. But why did invalidating state sodomy bans require any doctrinal innovation? Shouldn’t Lawrence have been an easy case under already-existing law? After all, legislation must serve a secular purpose to meet the Establishment Clause test laid out in Lemon v. Kurtzman, and the bans had no rationale but a pan-Abrahamic homosexuality taboo. So hadn’t the bans been unconstitutional since Lemon—that is, some thirty years before Lawrence?
Until Lawrence, there was an anomaly at the heart of the Lemon test: Courts took morality enforcement for granted as a secular purpose, irrespective of whether that morality had any nonreligious rationale. This prevented the Lemon test from reaching one of the areas that needed it most: so-called “morals legislation.” Hence Lawrence is in effect an Establishment Clause case despite purporting to sound in due process. For the rule of decision it applied in invalidating the bans for lack of a secular purpose is none other than the familiar first prong of the Lemon test: Legislation must do more than codify creed.
In reaffirming that religious belief never suffices as a basis for legislation, Lawrence gave Lemon the breadth it always should have had. When it applied the secular purpose requirement to morals legislation, Lawrence vindicated the cultural choice implicit in the First Amendment’s nonestablishment rule—our precommitment to a legal system grounded in reasons that are open to all Americans.
Jarret A. Zafran

Our Government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, generally measured through our elections. When incumbent powers create structures and rules for our politics that entrench the status quo and limit voter control, however, the legitimacy of that consent is tested. For more than fifty years, and in spite of the “political question doctrine,” the Supreme Court has adjudicated challenges to franchise restrictions, gerrymandering, ballot access provisions, and more. In doing so, the Court utilizes doctrinal frameworks that focus on harms to individual rights and not on structural harms to the competitiveness, accountability, and responsiveness of our politics. This myopic view leaves systemic entrenchment and political lockup largely untouched. Scholars have identified these doctrinal deficiencies, but have not suggested an alternative textual basis for judicial intervention in these cases. This Note offers a potential solution in the Guarantee Clause. It argues that the Clause embodies a promise of popular sovereignty in the states. I contend that the Guarantee Clause can and should be revived to unburden the courts from the deficiencies of existing doctrine and provide a textual basis for addressing the problems of political malfunction.