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Old 08-21-2013, 01:57 PM
dstarfire dstarfire is online now
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What legal principle or court ruling precludes laws targeted at a specific individual or group?

So, what legal principle, court ruling, or law prevents legislation targeted at a specific entity?

In a recent thread one flaw with a posted theory/idea was that it involved a law targeted at specific individual or small group (and not a member of an explicitly protected group like race or religion).
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Old 08-21-2013, 02:10 PM
friedo friedo is online now
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Who says such a principal exists? Congress even has a special term for laws that target a specific individual or group: private laws. The most recent one was S. 285, "A Bill For the relief of Sopuruchi Chukwueke."

Quote:
(a) In General- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, for the purposes of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), Sopuruchi Chukwueke shall be deemed to have been lawfully admitted to, and remained in, the United States, and shall be eligible for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence under section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1255) upon filing an application for such adjustment of status.
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Old 08-21-2013, 02:23 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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As that other thread correctly said, a Bill of attainder is specifically prohibited, not any other type of "legislation targeted at a specific entity".
Quote:
A bill of attainder (also known as an act of attainder or writ of attainder) is an act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without privilege of a judicial trial.
Where is the confusion coming in?
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Old 08-21-2013, 02:49 PM
dstarfire dstarfire is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
As that other thread correctly said, a Bill of attainder is specifically prohibited, not any other type of "legislation targeted at a specific entity".
So, theoretically, Congress could pass a law saying "Joe Jackson must bathe or shower at least once every two days" (Joe Jackson (fictitious outside this theoretical example) has unusually stinky body odor and some hygiene issues), correct?

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Where is the confusion coming in?
No confusion (not now, anyway). I just like seeing how common American ethics are implemented in law, and discovering ways the law isn't as messed up or easily abused as many people think. (It's still messed up, but there's usually a semi-consistent logic to it and some limited protections against abuse).

Last edited by dstarfire; 08-21-2013 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:12 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
So, theoretically, Congress could pass a law saying "Joe Jackson must bathe or shower at least once every two days" (Joe Jackson (fictitious outside this theoretical example) has unusually stinky body odor and some hygiene issues), correct?
In addition to the Bill of Attainder clause in the U.S. and I think all state constitutions, there's also the general idea-- and you'll need a lawyer for more detail, but courts have at times upheld this -- that laws must have a (at least barely-plausible) relation to legitimate government concerns, both in their goal and in whether the law would actually affect reaching that goal. This is of course, aside from the particular issue of whether the U.S. Constitution grants Congress jurisdiction over a particular area or not, as by default states have jurisdiction.

So, Joe Jackson might concede that public health and eliminating odor nuisances are valid concerns of the State of Mississippi, but argue it has no legitimate interest in what he does on his own private property, so there's no valid reason for the a Mississippi law specifying what he must do when not in public.

(If the U.S. Congress passed the "Joe Jackson Bathing Law", he's got an even better argument: personal hygiene, or even public health in general, isn't anything delegated to Congress by the Constitution; the U.S. might convince a judge that it's related to interstate commerce, but that's a bit of a stretch).

Finally, based purely on a quick reading of the Wikipedia article, it seems to me that Joe Jackson could claim that the forced bathing is punishment, and therefore the law is in fact a Bill of Attainder.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:17 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
(If the U.S. Congress passed the "Joe Jackson Bathing Law", he's got an even better argument: personal hygiene, or even public health in general, isn't anything delegated to Congress by the Constitution; the U.S. might convince a judge that it's related to interstate commerce, but that's a bit of a stretch).
I was going to crack a joke about how badly he must stink if it's substantially affecting interstate commerce. Maybe if he lives in Washington and is just stinking up the Capitol they could justify it under the Necessary and Proper Clause.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:30 PM
Alley Dweller Alley Dweller is offline
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If everyone except Joe Jackson were free to skip their bath, I would argue equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:43 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
If everyone except Joe Jackson were free to skip their bath, I would argue equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Which points to the other issue - laws must not violate the constitution, as it trumps mere law. For example, a law that mandates all businesses must close Sunday (or- be open Saturday)... It may be argued that this law is applicable to everyone, but if it appears that it is designed or the net effect is to put the screws to Jews and Moslems, it can be argued it violates freedom of religion.

it's not if a law "targets" a person or group, it's invalid if it violates a specific protection - race, creed, colour, equal protection, freedom of religion, freedom of speech.
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Old 08-21-2013, 05:18 PM
LawMonkey LawMonkey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
If everyone except Joe Jackson were free to skip their bath, I would argue equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Fifth/Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection was my thought as well, but it's not a prohibition, as interpreted by the SCOTUS to date (for reasons that are obvious if you think about it: almost every law has the effect of preferring or discriminating against some set of people or entities somewhere). You just have to make it past a hurdle of height dictated by who you're targeting or effecting.

(I actually remember there being dicta in some case or another that discussed the possibility of a "class of one" in an equal protection context--someone who's had con law more recently than I can feel free to chime in.)
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:59 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
(If the U.S. Congress passed the "Joe Jackson Bathing Law", he's got an even better argument: personal hygiene, or even public health in general, isn't anything delegated to Congress by the Constitution; the U.S. might convince a judge that it's related to interstate commerce, but that's a bit of a stretch).
He's affecting interstate commerce by not buying soap or deodorant.
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:34 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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State constitutions often contain a principle of "general applicability" for state legislation. Here's Illinois's:

SECTION 13. SPECIAL LEGISLATION
The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law
when a general law is or can be made applicable. Whether a
general law is or can be made applicable shall be a matter
for judicial determination.


But when the Illinois General Assembly passes a statute that applies to "all counties with a population of more than four million," it's pretty certain they're singling out Cook County.
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:46 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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"The law in its infinite wisdom forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under the bridges."
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Old 08-22-2013, 02:16 AM
Space Vegetable Space Vegetable is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
But when the Illinois General Assembly passes a statute that applies to "all counties with a population of more than four million," it's pretty certain they're singling out Cook County.
Pennsylvania has something similar. The legislature uses "class 1 city" to target Philadelphia, "class 2" when they feel like writing laws for Pittsburgh only, and "class 2A" for Scranton. In this way, the state constitution protects the people from clearer legislation.
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Old 08-22-2013, 02:24 AM
DataX DataX is offline
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Also reminds me of Maryland's attempt to regulate Walmart by limiting a bill to employers of a certain size and then exempting some of the others that fell in this category.

http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2006/07...unconstitution

Was partially struck down on equal protection grounds, but that is an oversimplification of what happened.
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Old 08-22-2013, 02:37 AM
denquixote denquixote is offline
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IANAL but: Does this have something to do with the recent enactment of voter ID legislation, which is arguably directed at minorities and the poor? If it can be shown perhaps that, even though the law is not directed at a particular minority group, the overall affect is to disproportionately deny e.g. African Americans their rights then the state's interest in enacting such a law would come under heightened scrutiny if challenged in a Federal court

This principle would also apply to free speech legislation, more precisely laws prohibiting certain forms of speech or laws affecting one gender. There is no law that says such laws cannot be enacted, but rather that because of the danger they must be subjected to increased or more exacting scrutiny.
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Old 08-22-2013, 06:23 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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As others have said, there's no general principle in the Constitution that specifically prohibits this type of law.

There are examples of where legislatures do pass laws that are essentially targeted at a specific group. For example, let's say a law is enacted requiring all beer bottles to have a five cent deposit. Beer companies could argue that they're being targeted as a group - companies that use bottles for other products don't get charged the deposit.
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Old 08-22-2013, 08:02 AM
Doug K. Doug K. is offline
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At least now we know why she's really going out with 'him' (instead of Joe).
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:04 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
So, what legal principle, court ruling, or law prevents legislation targeted at a specific entity?

In a recent thread one flaw with a posted theory/idea was that it involved a law targeted at specific individual or small group (and not a member of an explicitly protected group like race or religion).
Such passage would be declared UNconstitutional, period, but say a person were arrested under it, that would be in the Prosecutorial sense, "Selective Prosecution/Enforcement", based on a "Selective Enactment".
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:06 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
Such passage would be declared UNconstitutional, period,
You've just contradicted what everyone else in this thread has said. Do you have anything to back this up?
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:11 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawbuff
Such passage would be declared UNconstitutional, period,


Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
You've just contradicted what everyone else in this thread has said. Do you have anything to back this up?
How did I contradict it?? Bill of Attainder's are UNconstitutional.
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:50 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by denquixote View Post
IANAL but: Does this have something to do with the recent enactment of voter ID legislation, which is arguably directed at minorities and the poor? If it can be shown perhaps that, even though the law is not directed at a particular minority group, the overall affect is to disproportionately deny e.g. African Americans their rights then the state's interest in enacting such a law would come under heightened scrutiny if challenged in a Federal court

This principle would also apply to free speech legislation, more precisely laws prohibiting certain forms of speech or laws affecting one gender. There is no law that says such laws cannot be enacted, but rather that because of the danger they must be subjected to increased or more exacting scrutiny.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
Such passage would be declared UNconstitutional, period, but say a person were arrested under it, that would be in the Prosecutorial sense, "Selective Prosecution/Enforcement", based on a "Selective Enactment".
Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
You've just contradicted what everyone else in this thread has said. Do you have anything to back this up?
Quote:
Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
How did I contradict it?? Bill of Attainder's are UNconstitutional.
the voter-ID law is being challenged because (allegedly) the practical effect is to discriminate against constitutionally protected group - by race. A lot more poor people are minorities, a law that hurts poor people disproportionately a lot more, hurts minorities a lot more. The alleged problem being addressed (people voting fraudulently) is nowhere near the level alleged by proponents of the legislation, so the law puts excessive demands on poor=minoritis for no good reason. It can be argued that it was in fact designed to do this - stop minorities who more often vote Democrat from doing voting at all unless they go to extreme lengths. the obstacles to obtaining proper ID are much greater for poor people; they likely don't have computers, they likely don't have the free time or automobile to travel a long distance to apply for things like birth certificates in person, they are less likely to have this sort of documentaton already, yada yada.

You see the case - voter ID = stop protected minorities from voting is the argument. Therefore, the law unfairly targets a constitutionally PROTECTED minority. If true, this is unconstitutional. Bill of Attainder etc. have nothing to do with it.

Writing a bill to target densely populated area - class 1 , 2 etc. - faces no such challenge, unless the result is to effectively discriminate against a protected minority. Challenges over discrimination have had two attacks - the intent was to discriminate, or the net effect is to discriminate. (I.e. unecessarily demanding physical standards had the net effect of discrimanting against female firefighter or police applicants, whether intentional or not.) While generally unintentional results don't qualify as discrimination, if they are too obvious then they may.

The trouble with passing a too targetted law is this - what would stop Walmart, for example, from contracting with a separate Wal-Consultant-Mart, inc. to provide the people to work its stores, who were not then employed by Walmart? However, a law that covered "everyone over X employees except the following" prevents a silly end run. Of course, i'm surprised WalMart didn't just franchise out half its stores to bypass this rule.
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:56 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Md, to clarify, as in your example, that is PERCEIVED targeting, the SPECIFIC wording of the law does not say that it is directed at minorities, but it's application could be so.

To clarify, if, the text of the law is unclear or vague, then the courts decide, my other post was directed at the posters intent, when a SPECIFIC group is targeted, his words:

Quote:
specific individual or group?

Last edited by lawbuff; 08-22-2013 at 11:57 AM.
  #23  
Old 08-22-2013, 12:09 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lawbuff View Post
How did I contradict it?? Bill of Attainder's are UNconstitutional.
As cited above there are many other kinds of possible bills "targeted at specific individual or small group" other than a bill of attainder that are entirely legal. That's the distinction that everybody has carefully been making.
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:26 PM
Jimmy Chitwood Jimmy Chitwood is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LawMonkey View Post
(I actually remember there being dicta in some case or another that discussed the possibility of a "class of one" in an equal protection context--someone who's had con law more recently than I can feel free to chime in.)
Not even dicta:

Quote:
Our cases have recognized successful equal protection claims brought by a “class of one,” where the plaintiff alleges that she has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment. See Sioux City Bridge Co. v. Dakota County, 260 U.S. 441 (1923); Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co. v. Commission of Webster Cty., 488 U.S. 336 (1989). In so doing, we have explained that “‘[t]he purpose of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is to secure every person within the State’s jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by express terms of a statute or by its improper execution through duly constituted agents.’” Sioux City Bridge Co., supra, at 445 (quoting Sunday Lake Iron Co. v. Township of Wakefield, 247 U.S. 350, 352 (1918)).
VILLAGE OF WILLOWBROOK, et al. v. GRACE OLECH.

But as you say, that just means an equal protection claim can be brought based on a class of one; it doesn't mean that a law can't ever be passed that targets a class of one.

Also, I don't know what the other thread that's being referred to is, but this part of the OP:

Quote:
Originally Posted by dstarfire
In a recent thread one flaw with a posted theory/idea was that it involved a law targeted at specific individual or small group (and not a member of an explicitly protected group like race or religion).
sounds backward. It's harder to legally justify legislation that targets individuals in an explicitly protected group. Again, that's not to say you can't do it; there's no blanket ban on passing laws that affect this group or that group or this person or that person, but depending on the law and the group it might be either really easy to get away with or nearly impossible.
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