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In the last thirty years, the equal protection clause has been largely transformed. Once a point of reference for courts striking down schemes of economic regulation which they regarded as unreasonable or unwise, it is now primarily a source of constitutional standards in the areas of civil rights, reapportionment, and rights of indigents accused of crime. These standards are of immense legal and social consequence. Since the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Educ. their development-characterized by Professor Philip B. Kurland as "the rise of egalitarianism" – has been paralleled by an increasing attention to the claims of equality in our country's political discourse and activity; and without doubt legal rule and societal concern have interacted sharply.

This article considers the state and federal cases "a of the past year decided on a basis of equal protection principles, and indicates to some degree their present centrality in constitutional adjudication. In attempting this review, the author has focused with special intensity on two innovative decisions. One of these concerns congressional power to implement equal protection guarantees; the other deals with sentencing practices adversely affecting indigent criminals.


Constitutional Law | Law