Jeff Lingwall, an assistant professor in legal studies, and Michelle Vos, a lecturer, authored “Causal Narratives and Constitutional Scrutiny,” which has been accepted by the Memphis Law Review.
“We chose this research topic because we saw widely different standards used for evaluating causality between courts, litigants and social scientists,” Lingwall said. “Causality is central to many subjects in constitutional law, so more uniform thinking can benefit all involved.”
Their work shows that courts and scientists often think about causality in different ways. Courts evaluating constitutional questions often look to causal evidence to see if government policies that potentially infringe on constitutional rights are connected to government interests.
This is particularly important when courts attempt to balance strong government interests in health or safety against potential infringement on constitutional rights. The article proposes frameworks for evaluating causal evidence that build on traditional tiers of constitutional scrutiny.
“If courts or litigants are influenced by the frameworks we propose, it could have significant influence on how they evaluate any number of government policies,” Lingwall explained. “For example, in the paper we consider alcohol-related regulation, administrative actions for telecommunication, policies attempting to lower violence among teenagers, and so on.”