Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976)

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Author: Justice Powell

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Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976)

MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring.

I join the opinion of the Court as I am in general agreement with it. I do have reservations as to some of the discussion concerning the appropriate standard for equal protection analysis and the relevance of the statistical evidence. Accordingly, I add this concurring statement.

With respect to the equal protection standard, I agree that Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), is the most relevant precedent. But I find it unnecessary, in deciding this case, to read that decision as broadly as some of the Court’s language may imply. Reed and subsequent cases involving gender-based classifications make clear that the Court subjects such classifications to a more critical examination than is normally applied when "fundamental" constitutional rights and "suspect classes" are not present.

I view this as relatively easy case. No one questions the legitimacy or importance of the asserted governmental objective: the promotion of highway safety. The decision of the case turns on whether the state legislature, by the classification it has chosen, has adopted a means that bears a "`fair and substantial relation’" to this objective. Id. at 76, quoting Royster Guano Co. v. Virginia, 253 U.S. 412, 415 (1920).

It seems to me that the statistics offered by appellees and relied upon by the District Court do tend generally to support the view that young men drive more, possibly are inclined to drink more, and -- for various reasons -- are involved in more accidents than young women. Even so, I am not persuaded that these facts and the inferences fairly drawn from them justify this classification based on a three-year age differential between the sexes, and especially one that is so easily circumvented as to be virtually meaningless. Putting it differently, this gender-based classification does not bear a fair and substantial relation to the object of the legislation.

* As is evident from our opinions, the Court has had difficulty in agreeing upon a standard of equal protection analysis that can be applied consistently to the wide variety of legislative classifications. There are valid reasons for dissatisfaction with the "two-tier" approach that has been prominent in the Court’s decisions in the past decade. Although viewed by many as a result-oriented substitute for more critical analysis, that approach -- with its narrowly limited "upper-tier" -- now has substantial precedential support. As has been true of Reed and its progeny, our decision today will be viewed by some as a "middle-tier" approach. While I would not endorse that characterization, and would not welcome a further subdividing of equal protection analysis, candor compels the recognition that the relatively deferential "rational basis" standard of review normally applied takes on a sharper focus when we address a gender-based classification. So much is clear from our recent cases. For thoughtful discussions of equal protection analysis, see, e.g., Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term -- Foreword: In Search of Evolving Doctrine on a Changing Court: A Model for A Newer Equal Protection, 86 Harv.L.Rev. 1 (1972); Wilkinson, The Supreme Court, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Three Faces of Constitutional Equality, 61 Va.L.Rev. 945 (1975).

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Chicago: Powell, "Powell, J., Concurring," Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976) in 429 U.S. 190 429 U.S. 190astS">GO>* "429 U.S. 211–429 U.S. 190astS. Original Sources, accessed September 23, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DC9B141FM9BHHSY.

MLA: Powell. "Powell, J., Concurring." Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976), in 429 U.S. 190, pp. 429 U.S. 190astS">GO>* "429 U.S. 211–429 U.S. 190astS. Original Sources. 23 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DC9B141FM9BHHSY.

Harvard: Powell, 'Powell, J., Concurring' in Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976). cited in 1976, 429 U.S. 190, pp.429 U.S. 190astS">GO>* "429 U.S. 211–429 U.S. 190astS. Original Sources, retrieved 23 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DC9B141FM9BHHSY.