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Minimum Rationality – Rational Basis Review for Constitutionality

Minimum Rationality -Standard for Constitutional Review

This standard, also known as the “Rational Basis Standard of Review”, requires that a law have a rational connection to a permissible state end (a legitimate goal of the government). The classification must have a reasonable basis (not wholly arbitrary), and the courts will assume any statement of facts that can be used to justify the classification. This standard applies to laws that affect a non-fundamental right or one that is not expressly protected under the Constitution, such as social welfare and economic matters. As such, it is the default standard by which the court reviews a law to determine constitutionality. The standard is higher if the law affects a fundamental right, such as due process or equal protection rights.

⁃    Example: The state passes a law concerning the speed limit on state highways. This law is not related to a fundamental right; rather, it is related to the privilege of driving. As such, this law would need to have a rational connection to a legitimate state goal. The goal of reducing traffic accidents or promoting motorist safety is sufficient to find the statute constitutional.

⁃    Discussion: The court is left to interpret what constitutes a legitimate government interest. There is no formal test established for this purpose. How do you feel about the level of autonomy left to the court in making this decision? (Note: When the government fails to provide a legitimate interest promoted by its law or action, the duty of the court is to “seek out other conceivable reasons for validating” the law or action.)

⁃    Practice Question: The state government passes a law stating that individuals cannot watch any sort of screen or video projector while driving in a car. If a group of drivers and makers of car video players challenges the constitutionality of the law, what standard would a court apply in determining constitutionality?

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