What Is the Rational Basis Test (RBT)?

What Is the Rational Basis Test (RBT)?

In an action that does not involve fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and the right to vote, the rational basis test, invented entirely by the Supreme Court, applies in all constitutional cases. Although it is named the rational basis test, the examination of government actions is not rational, nor is it a test of anything except judicial willingness to overlook misconduct by other branches of government.

RBTs are toothless for what reason? The Supreme Court has called that law the rational basis review “Entirely Irrelevant”. furthermore, those laws are, perhaps, formed based on “rational speculation with no basis in reality.”

The challenger needs to “negate every conceivable basis” for the government’s action, even if it is purely hypothetical or speculative. For the challenged law to stand, the court must see how it could serve a “legitimate” interest.

It might sound silly but let’s break it down to pieces and understand it again.

In the end, it does not matter what the government aims for.  In deciding whether to uphold a law, judges do not ask what the government’s actual ends are, but instead, accept legislation if the government’s stated ends are legitimate.

Laws must be contested on every possible basis. In rational basis cases, there is no requirement for the government to prove its factual assertions by providing evidence as in cases where the standards of review are “heightened” (where “heightened” is simply a euphemism for “real”).

In reality, courts, instead of upholding laws when there is a plausible set of facts that could justify the government’s actions, may uphold laws even if no evidence of such facts existed up to that point.

Government actions are rationalized by judges. It is an egregious breach of judicial impartiality to require judges to invent reasons for the government’s actions, a violation not tolerated in any other setting.

A constitutional presumption is effectively established under the RBT for the benefit of the government. What does this result in? A hollow charade rather than meaningful judicial review. In plain sight, the Framers’ rights are trampled upon.

Unlike all other standards of review, the RBT does not seek the truth on behalf of the judicial authority.

Judges are not allowed to abandon their legal responsibility to consult with truth in any other setting, and it is inexplicable and irresponsible that the Supreme Court would tell them to do so in rational basis cases.

As a result, the RBT is judicial abdication distilled to its essence, incapable of protecting our constitutional rights.

the rational basis test
the rational basis test

Significance Of Rational Basis Test

In determining whether laws, orders, and regulations violate the Constitution, we use one of three levels of scrutiny. A person’s right that the government violates will dictate the level of scrutiny the Court uses, or how closely it examines a law.

The judiciary will play an important role in protecting some rights, such as free speech. A court will generally adhere to strict scrutiny when evaluating laws challenged as violations of free speech. This means that the court will only endorse a law if it can prove that it is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.

In such cases, the Court is also likely to require a showing of discrimination against minorities classified as discrete and insular.

rational basis test examples
rational basis test examples

What The Test Requires

Statutes and ordinances must meet the rational basis test if their means and objectives are rationally related to the state’s legitimate interest.

Comparison Of Rationales

A judicial review can be conducted under the rational basis test, the intermediate scrutiny test, or the strict scrutiny test. There is an intermediate and strict scrutiny test in addition to the rational basis test.

If there are no fundamental rights at issue or suspect classifications, the rational basis test is generally applied.

The Way Forward

In these cases, the courts have continued to use this version of the rational basis test that is extremely deferential. According to the Supreme Court, when a law is subject only to rational basis scrutiny, the legislator’s motivation for passing a law does not matter. As a result, courts of appeal have upheld laws that have purely protectionist motivations.

A good example is the government’s ruling in Powers v. Harris, challenging a law that required anybody selling caskets in Oklahoma to obtain a funeral director’s license and to operate out of a licensed funeral home. The Tenth Circuit explained that Beach Communications’ protectionist motives were irrelevant.

Any reasonable basis for the law would be upheld, as long as the reason is reasonable. Many other instances highlight the lack of teeth in the rational basis test.

Hope remains, however. The federal government and state governments have both been searching for rational grounds for regulating the economy during the past few years.

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