Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Abstract

Prior inquiries into the relationship between equal protection and disparate impact have focused on whether equal protection entails a disparate impact standard and whether laws prohibiting disparate impacts can qualify as legislation enforcing equal rotection. In this Article, Professor Primus focuses on a third question: whether equal protection affirmatively forbids the use of statutory disparate impact standards. Like affirmative action, a statute restricting racially disparate impacts is a race-conscious mechanism designed to reallocate opportunities from some racial groups to others. Accordingly, the same individualist view of equal protection that has constrained the operation of affirmative action might also raise questions about disparate impact laws. Those questions can be satisfactorily answered: the disparate impact standards of statutes such as Title VII are not now unconstitutional. But by exploring the tensions between those standards and the now-prevailing view of equal protection, the Article illuminates many indeterminacies in both of those legal concepts. It also argues against interpreting disparate impact standards in ways that most easily align with the values of individualist equal protection. Such interpretations offer easier defenses against constitutional attack, but they also threaten to cleanse antidiscrimination law of its rematning concern with inherited racial hierarchy.