Enforcing the Equal Protection Clause

Congressional Power, Judicial Doctrine, and Constitutional Law

336 pages

January, 2016

ISBN: 9781479859702



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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

For over a century, Congress’s power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “the equal protection of the laws” has presented judges and scholars with a puzzle. What does it mean for Congress to “enforce” such a wide-ranging, open-ended provision when the Supreme Court has insisted on its own superiority in interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment? In Enforcing the Equal Protection Clause, William D. Araiza offers a unique understanding of Congress’s enforcement power and its relationship to the Court’s claim to supremacy when interpreting the Constitution.
Drawing on the history of American thinking about equality in the decades before and after the Civil War, Araiza argues that congressional enforcement and judicial supremacy can co-exist, but only if the Court limits its role to ensuring that enforcement legislation reasonably promotes the core meaning of the Equal Protection Clause. Much of the Court’s equal protection jurisprudence stops short of stating such core meaning, thus leaving Congress free (subject to appropriate judicial checks) to enforce the full scope of the constitutional guarantee. Araiza’s thesis reconciles the Supreme Court’s ultimate role in interpreting the Constitution with Congress’s superior capacity to transform the Fourteenth Amendment’s majestic principles into living reality.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s Enforcement Clause raises difficult issues of separation of powers, federalism, and constitutional rights. Araiza illuminates each of these in this scholarly, timely work that is both intellectually rigorous but also accessible to non-specialist readers.


  • “Araiza’s thoughtful analysis should be read by anyone who is interested in constitutional law and, indeed American politics.”

    Political Science Quarterly

  • Enforcing the Equal Protection Clause is a very significant addition to the legal texts on the equal protection clause.  Araiza has highlighted some previously ignored aspects of the equal protection clause.  He clearly shows it is fundamentally a constitutional issue and within the ambit of Congress’s powers.  This book is a must-read for both students and experts of constitutional law.”

    The Washington Book Review

  • “In Enforcing the Equal Protection Clause, Araiza does a superb job of filling this literary void and bringing a measure of clarity to the subject… Overall, Enforcing the Equal Protection Clause is an engaging, education, and thought-provoking read.”


  • "This is a serious effort to reconcile Supreme Court doctrine with the original goals of the Enforcement Clause. And it’s well written, well argued, and eminently readable."

    —Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia

  • “Extremely well-written, well-argued, and well-documented. Araiza’s prose is a delight, both accessible and sophisticated, no easy feat. . . . Anyone who writes in this area in the future will have to wrestle with Araiza'a persuasive and strong account.”

    —Eric J. Segall, Kathy and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law, Georgia State University

  • “Araiza’s book is a significant contribution to the scholarly landscape about equal protection and Congressional power, but its great accomplishment is to shed new light on the two subjects in tandem. . . . Araiza’s analysis is (characteristically) intelligent. He offers careful doctrinal analysis and a nuanced discussion of flaws in the Court’s current approach to Congress’s enforcement power. This is academic scholarship of a very high quality.”

    —Eric Berger, University of Nebraska College of Law