Strict scrutiny refers to a form of legal assessment used by benches to ascertain the constitutionality of specific laws. This criterion is often employed by courts whenever a petitioner prosecutes the regime for impartiality (Kelso). To qualify as a law under strict scrutiny, the parliament must have narrowly modified the legislation to advance strategic government interests and passed it. This is the highest level of assessment a bench will employ to gauge the constitutional eligibility of governmental discrimination.
A claim for equal protection is an eligibility criterion for the use of this review criteria. Within this classification, the parliament must have enacted an act that either interferes with fundamental rights or involves a suspect sorting. The classification of suspects includes race, state origin, religious conviction, and alienage (Kelso). Strict scrutiny can also be used on content-based speech limitations but does not apply to firearm protocols. Laws under the defense of the strict scrutiny guidelines are the right to vote, the right to travel, and the right to discretion. Strict scrutiny is essential in identifying instances where the government interferes with protected rights and strikes down such actions.
Affirmative Action Case
Bethune-Hill versus Virginia Panel of the Voting case occurred as an aftermath of the 2011 instance where the Virginia State Congress drew the borders for the 12 districts. Citizens drawn from the 12 districts sued the assembly for ethnic discrimination when sketching the borders in the US local Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The plaintiffs maintained that the drawing of the borders was a contravention of the Equal Protection Section of the 14th Amendment of the US constitution (Rush). The general assembly had deliberately drawn those borders to preserve Republican Party influence in the region and the leadership argued that the borders would ensure that majority races had a say in their local politics.
The new borders were meant to ensure that the minority groups within the districts would elect their leaders of choice. The accused also required the plaintiff to submit an alternative border that did not amount to racial segregation.
The borders for the districts were drawn with a predetermined racial goal of 55% black voting-age population, packing African Americans into districts. The district court ruled that the assembly had not contravened the Voting Rights Act in drawing 11 of the 12 districts and that only one, the 12th district, was inappropriate. The bench ruled that the assembly had a compelling interest in drawing the borders in the concluded way and had carried out this in a narrowly modified way (Rush). According to the district court, this meant that the process of creating boundaries within the state met the strict scrutiny requirement for some government decisions.
The plaintiffs submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court that also applied the requirements of strict scrutiny in judging the actions of the assembly. This Court decided that the district court resorted to the wrong legal standard in concluding that race had not predominated the drawing of the borders for the 11 districts. It also ordered that the general assembly creates a remedial map that was concluded and used for the 2019 elections, devoid of racial gerrymandering.
Argument on the Use of Strict Scrutiny Standards
The case utilized the strict scrutiny requirements in the Supreme Court stage when the case was appealed but failed to do so at the district court level. The case touched on the fundamental right to vote and also the segregation of Americans based on race. The constitution of America guarantees the right to vote for all its citizens and protects this right in the constitution. Equality is also a crucial tenet of the American constitution and can only be violated under crucial circumstances.
The regulations of the American judicial system require strict scrutiny, the highest level of judicial review, to be employed whenever such rights are infringed (Deford and Duchin 140). The key to strict scrutiny is to ensure that American citizens are protected from discrimination by the government. The district court ruled that the general assembly of Virginia did not deliberately cause racial gerrymandering by dividing the districts based on race.
The Supreme Court ruled in a contrary manner because the general assembly of Virginia deliberately segregated African Americans in a specific region. This ensured that the rights of American citizens to vote and make democratic decisions were not interfered with. The court determined that no strategic government objective would be served by the decision to divide the districts based on predetermined populations of the regions (Deford and Duchin 124).
The court also concluded that the leadership of the state did not slightly make modifications to the laws that govern voting and racial equity. The modifications the state purported to have made were geared towards ensuring that the decisions made by minority groups at the ballot were not overshadowed by majority groups. This was contrary to requirements under the equality rights and regulations of the strict scrutiny. The decision to draw the borders previously amounted to the separation and targeting of a specific race.
Deford, Daryl, and Moon Duchin. Redistricting Reform in Virginia: Districting Criteria in Context. Virginia Policy Review, vol. 12, no. 2, 2019, pp. 120-146.
Kelso, R. Randall. “The Structure of Strict Scrutiny Review”. SSRN Electronic Journal, 2020. Web.
Rush, Mark. “The Voting Rights Act and the Debasement of Minority Voting Rights in Virginia 2001-2015: A Preliminary Analysis – Updated.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2018. Web.