Saturday, May 17, 2014

Washington v. Davis case brief summary

Washington v. Davis (1976)


Facts: Unsuccessful African-American applicants to D.C. police force claimed that verbal skills test unconstitutionally discriminated against them because a higher percentage of African-Americans than of white Americans failed the test. They claimed that there was no evidence establishing the test's accuracy in measuring subsequent job performance, but NOT that the test constituted "intentional" or "purposeful" discrimination against them.

Issue/Holding: Is a law or other official act is unconstitutional solely because it has a racially disproportionate impact?  No.

Reasoning/Major Points:
·         Court holds that 1) there is a rational basis for test; and 2) there was no invidious purpose in administration
·         The invidious quality of a law claimed to be racially discriminatory must be traced to a racially discriminatory purpose.
·         This is not to say that the necessary discriminatory racial purpose must be express or appear on the face of the statute (J. Stevens's concurring opinion elaborates on this). An invidious discriminatory purpose may often be inferred from the totality of the relevant facts.
o   Nevertheless, the Court has not held that a law, neutral on its face and serving ends otherwise within the power of government to pursue, is invalid under the EP clause simply because it may affect a greater proportion of one race than of another.
o   Disproportionate impact is not irrelevant, but it is not the sole touchstone of an invidious racial discrimination forbidden by the Con.

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