Case Study United States

The case study analyses the equal protection doctrine of the U.S. Supreme Court. The core of the study is an empirical analysis of all equal protection cases of the Supreme Court in the 50 years from 1970 to 2019. It shows that the level of scrutiny applied by the Court is highly predictive of whether the latter finds a violation of the equal protection clause. While this is not surprising, a closer analysis draws a more nuanced picture. Even if the Court does not apply strict or intermediate scrutiny, challenges of distinctions based on suspect classifications have a rather high success rate. At the same time, the success rate for distinctions based on race or sex is lower than one might expect considering the heightened standard of scrutiny that is triggered by these classifications. This finding suggests that the doctrine of tiered scrutiny does less work in shaping the equal protection case law than is often assumed.