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Equal Protection Violation Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution made headlines recently when the House of Representatives set conditions for raising the debt ceiling. Democrats argued that under the Fourteenth Amendment, the House could make no such demands and that there basically should be no debt ceiling because the amendment promised all debts would be paid. President Biden declined to use that option for fear of an endless court battle. 

The Fourteenth Amendment was one of three amendments passed in response to the Civil War, joined by the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The amendment's first section includes several clauses: the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause. 

The Equal Protection Clause was in response to the use of “Black Codes” in Southern states, which denied African-Americans the right to sue, give evidence, or serve as witnesses. The Codes also resulted in harsher punishments for them. The Equal Protection Clause applies both to citizens and non-citizens. It asserts that individuals in equal situations should be treated equally. 

The Fourteenth Amendment also had the beneficial effect of extending the Bill of Rights to the states, whereas previously it was thought to apply only to the federal government. 

The Equal Protection Clause, it must be noted, applies mainly to state laws and regulatory actions, not to actions by individuals. The federal government was originally exempted, but cases have been brought using the doctrine of “reverse incorporation” under the Fifth Amendment. 

When it comes to unequal treatment by individuals, federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas are on the books. The most prominent of them all is the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which enacted sweeping enforcement of workplace discrimination. 

If you feel you have been the victim of an equal protection violation in or around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, contact H. Rosen Law, P.C. Our civil rights attorney will listen to your story, assess the situation, and advise you of your best legal options. We also proudly serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg and Scranton. 

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What Is Equal Protection Under the Law? 

Equal protection under the law is one of the clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868 during the Reconstruction Era. It was aimed at holding Southern states’ feet to the proverbial fire so that they would treat former slaves on an equal basis. The clause appears in Section 1 of the amendment and reads: 

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

Note that this section also guarantees due process for any person facing criminal charges. It is therefore often referred to as the Due Process Clause as well as the Equal Protection Clause. The two clauses go hand in hand to protect the rights of the nation’s citizens. 

Famous Cases Involving the Equal Protection Clause 

The Fourteenth Amendment came alive and proved crucial in at least two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The first was the 1954 ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education, which held that “separate but equal” educational facilities for African-Americans and white people violated equal protection under the law clause.  

The court ruling noted: “To separate [African-American children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” 

Another more recent case was Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled in 2015 that same-sex marriage was legal, citing the Fourteenth Amendment and its Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court ruling stated: “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.” 

Suing Under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clause 

To file a lawsuit under the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that your rights must be violated by a state statute or government regulations, which treat you differently from others. For instance, height and weight requirements to be a police officer have often been included in job descriptions, barring some men and women from applying or being accepted. Courts have overturned these requirements based on the Equal Protection Clause.  

Under due process, if your rights in a criminal investigation or case have been violated, you may be able to file legal action or seek an appeal of a conviction, against those in authority. However, many of these incidents may also be litigated under other Constitutional and state protections. 

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If you feel that the state or some government agency has violated your rights under the Equal Protection Clause, contact us at H. Rosen Law, P.C. immediately. We will assess the situation and initiate the legal steps to protect and preserve your rights. We serve clients in and around Philadelphia and throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.