Presumption of Constitutionality.

“It is but a decent re- spect to the wisdom, integrity, and patriotism of the legislative body, by which any law is passed,” wrote Justice Bushrod Washington, “to presume in favor of its validity, until its violation of the Constitution is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”781 A corollary of this maxim is that if the constitutional question turns upon circumstances, courts will presume the existence of a state of facts which would justify the legislation that is challenged.782 It seems apparent, however, that with regard to laws which trench upon First Amendment freedoms and perhaps other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights such deference is far less than it would be toward statutory regulation of economic matters.783

Footnotes

781
Ogden v. Saunders, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 213, 270 (1827). See also Fletcher v. Peck, 10 U.S. (6 Cr.) 87, 128 (1810); Legal Tender Cases (Knox v. Lee), 79 U.S. (12 Wall.) 457, 531 (1871). [Back to text]
782
Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113, 132 (1877); Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61, 78–79 (1911); Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. v. Brownell, 294 U.S. 580, 584 (1935). [Back to text]
783
E.g., United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258 (1967); United Mine Workers v. Illinois State Bar Ass’n, 389 U.S. 217 (1967). But see McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 426 (1961). The development of the “compelling state interest” test in certain areas of equal protection litigation also bespeaks less deference to the legislative judgment. [Back to text]