Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The Reagan Administration came to Washington, D.C. committed to reintroducing traditional theories of civil rights enforcement. The thesis of this Essay is that the Administration's efforts concerning the enforcement of civil rights were not successful. Of course, only time will tell whether civil rights jurisprudence will be altered because of forces set in motion by the Administration and changes in the makeup of the judiciary.Using the United States v. Carotene Products Co.' decision as the point of departure for a consideration of twentieth-century civil rights doctrine, it is apparent that the original goal of the Supreme Court's civil rights policy was to prevent governments from engaging in intentionally discriminatory practices designed to harm politically defense-less racial, ethnic, or religious minorities. This traditional vision of civil rights enforcement shaped the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v.Board of Education, which struck down separate but equal segregated public education, as well as other decisions made by the Supreme Court during the mid-1950s which held various other segregative practices unconstitutional. For the most part, Congress had this traditional vision of civil rights enforcement in mind when it enacted the early modern civil rights statutes, including the Equal Pay Act,4 the Civil Rights Act of 1964,1 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.