A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law

224 pages

April, 2017

ISBN: 9781479846030



Add to Cart Available: 3/10/2017

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Part of the Legal Latin in Practice series


William D. Araiza is Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School. Previously, he clerked on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court.

All books by William D. Araiza

An introduction to the legal concept of unconstitutional bias.

If a town council denies a zoning permit for a group home for intellectually disabled persons because residents don’t want “those kinds of people” in the neighborhood, the town’s decision is motivated by the public’s dislike of a particular group.  Constitutional law calls this rationale “animus.”

Over the last two decades, the Supreme Court has increasingly turned to the concept of animus to explain why some instances of discrimination are unconstitutional. However, the Court’s condemnation of animus fails to address some serious questions.  How can animus on the part of people and institutions be uncovered? Does mere opposition to a particular group’s equality claims constitute animus?  Does the concept of animus have roots in the Constitution?

Animus engages these important questions, offering an original and provocative introduction to this type of unconstitutional bias.  William Araiza analyzes some of the modern Supreme Court’s most important discrimination cases through the lens of animus, tracing the concept from nineteenth century legal doctrine to today’s landmark cases, including Obergefell vs. Hodges and United States v. Windsor, both related to the legal rights of same-sex couples.  Animus humanizes what might otherwise be an abstract legal question, illustrating what constitutes animus, and why the prohibition against it matters more today than ever in our pluralistic society.


  • "Animus is thorough yet concise, taking an in-depth look at an area of constitutional law that has often perplexed students and scholars, and explaining it in an easily understandable and readable way."

    Law Library Journal

  • "By applying historical context to modern issues such as marriage equality, his discussion illuminates why understanding the concept of animus is important for judges and lawyers handling constitutional issues...Learning more about animus and its influence empowers us to work against it both as plaintiff lawyers and as citizens."


  • "Professor Araiza has provided a valuable service in revealing the history and motivations associated with the animus doctrine."


  • "Professor Araiza's fascinating new book helps to illuminate an important and under-theorized area of constitutional law.  In clear and jargon-free prose accessible to academics and lay readers alike, Araiza explains how the concept of 'animus' as an impermissible government objective has its roots in the nation's Founding.  He also ties together several Supreme Court decisions over the past few decades--especially in the area of gay rights--that have vexed many constitutional analysts. And finally, he offers a way to think about animus that will help courts address future cases where government action appears to be based on simple dislike of a group of people.  The book is a significant contribution to our understanding of constitutional law."

    —Dale Carpenter, Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law and Professor of Law, SMU Law School

  • "In this thoughtful, carefully reasoned book, William D. Araiza takes on one of the most important issues of contemporary constitutional law: when does a government’s targeting of a particular group represent a constitutional wrong?  In clear, concise language, Araiza makes the case that all Americans are protected against invidiously motivated government action, where that action amounts to unconstitutional animus.  Drawing on a long history of legal thought condemning government actions targeting a particular group for disfavor, Araiza reveals a critical but often overlooked truth: that even today the Supreme Court’s decisions offer real opportunities for groups seeking equality protections."

    —Katie Eyer, Rutgers Law School