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Unconstitutional Conditions

Kathleen M. Sullivan
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 102, No. 7 (May, 1989), pp. 1413-1506
DOI: 10.2307/1341337
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1341337
Page Count: 94
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Unconstitutional Conditions
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Abstract

Basic constitutional jurisprudence dictates that courts subject most government benefit decisions to minimal scrutiny, but scrutinize government actions that directly burden preferred liberties more closely. Unconstitutional conditions problems arise at the boundary between these two directives: when government conditions a benefit on the recipient's waiver of a preferred liberty, should courts review the conditioned benefit deferentially, as a benefit, or strictly, as a burden on a preferred liberty? In this Article, Professor Sullivan criticizes traditional analyses of unconstitutional conditions for focusing wrongly on whether conditions coerce individuals, distort legislative process, or permit alienation of constitutional rights. She articulates an alternative defense of close scrutiny, arguing that rights-pressuring conditions on government benefits skew distribution of power between government and rightholders, as well as among rightholders themselves. Professor Sullivan then develops this systemic approach, detailing both the circumstances in which courts should apply close scrutiny, and those in which government justifications may be strong enough to survive such scrutiny.

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