Legal claims challenging the discriminatory enforcement of a law are typically raised in what is known as an "as-applied" challenge. An as-applied challenge argues that a law, even though it may be generally constitutional, operates in an unconstitutional manner when applied to a particular person, group, or set of circumstances.
Minnesota Civil Rights Attorney
As a civil rights lawyer practicing in Minnesota and beyond, I focus on protecting people's civil rights and liberties in a variety of contexts. I have significant experience challenging discrimination by government actors, including winning precedent-setting victories.
What legal claims exist for challenging the discriminatory enforcement of the law?
Here are key components of such claims
Equal Protection Claims: Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, laws must be enforced equally and cannot be applied in a discriminatory manner. If a person or group can show that a law is being enforced in a way that discriminates based on race, national origin, religion, sex, or another protected class, they may have a valid equal protection claim.
Due Process Claims: The Due Process Clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments protect against arbitrary enforcement of laws. If a law is enforced in a manner that is fundamentally unfair or that deprives a person of a basic right without a fair process, there may be a valid due process claim.
First Amendment Claims: The First Amendment protects against laws that are applied in a way that infringes on protected speech, assembly, religion, and press rights. If the enforcement of a law silences or punishes certain speech or beliefs while allowing others, it may be challenged as a violation of First Amendment rights.
Federal Statutory Claims: Certain federal and state laws provide additional protections against discriminatory enforcement. For example, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discriminatory enforcement of laws and programs that receive federal funding.
Claims Under State Constitutions and Statutes: State constitutions and statutes often provide protections similar to those found in the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Discriminatory enforcement of laws that violate these state-level protections can sometimes be challenged in state court.
How do as-applied challenges succeed?
For an as-applied challenge to succeed, the plaintiff typically needs to demonstrate that they were personally harmed by the discriminatory enforcement of the law. The court will then evaluate the specific facts of the case and the manner in which the law was applied.
If the court finds that the law was applied in a discriminatory or unconstitutional manner, it can provide various remedies, such as enjoining further enforcement of the law against the plaintiff, awarding damages, or even, in some cases, declaring the law unconstitutional as applied to similar situations.
Challenging the discriminatory enforcement of a law can be a complex process, often requiring significant evidentiary support and substantial legal argument. Therefore, anyone seeking to make such a challenge should consider obtaining legal counsel who is experienced in constitutional and civil rights law.