by Lou Virelli, Professor of Law, Stetson University College of Law
The concept of unconstitutional animus is, of course, on many people’s minds as the Supreme Court continues to mull over the legality of President Trump’s travel ban executive order. A few weeks ago, Stetson University College of Law was home to a day-long discussion of the concept of animus, centered on Bill Araiza's (Brooklyn Law School) 2017 book, Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law (NYU Press 2017). Links to the webcast of the morning and afternoon sessions are available for free, courtesy of Stetson.
The conference, held on April 20 at Stetson, started with a panel that discussed the general concept of animus and its workability. That panel was composed of Dan Conkle (Indiana-Bloomington), Katie Eyer, (Rutgers-Camden), and Susannah Pollvogt (Arkansas). The discussion was spirited, as the panelists had very different views about the usefulness of the animus concept in modern equality law. Those views ranged from enthusiastic support, to a suggestion that courts focus more on renewing traditional and well-established equal protection doctrines, such as tiered scrutiny/suspect class analysis, to a concern that the animus concept serves to distract social justice litigators whose best litigation option is often straightforward rational basis review.