William D. Araiza


On his book Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law

Cover Interview of June 13, 2017


I have several hopes for this book. First, like most legal scholars, I hope to influence judges. Animus doctrine is quite important, but it’s seriously under-theorized. I hope that the book convinces judges that the Supreme Court’s previous animus cases have implicitly created a coherent animus doctrine that judges can use when deciding cases. The book attempts to reveal and illustrate that doctrine, and to present it in a way that judges can employ when deciding actual cases.

I also hope this book triggers more theoretical discussion among legal scholars about the future of equal protection law. Equal protection law today is adrift. As I said earlier, the Court has largely abandoned the political process theory approach. Nothing has replaced it. Animus doctrine can’t fill that hole completely. However, it can provide part of the solution. That part is an important one: the rise of xenophobia and cultural conflict (for example about sexual orientation and transgender identity) has raised the specter of government action motivated by simple dislike of particular persons—the core of the animus idea. Thus, a well-crafted animus doctrine can play an important role in the development of an approach to equal protection that responds to the issues prevalent in twenty-first century America.

Finally, and most generally, I hope the book triggers thought and discussion among legal experts, students, and educated laypersons, about what our constitution should mean. In writing this book I intentionally avoided overly-technical jargon and fine analytical distinctions, in favor of broad-brush analysis. Such technicalities have their place. But there is an important place for informed discussions between citizens about what their constitution means, and what it should mean.

Unfortunately, many Americans know little about fundamental constitutional concepts such as equal protection. This book attempts to introduce Americans to an important aspect of that concept, in a sophisticated yet accessible way. The issues to which animus doctrine responds are important ones in modern America. For that reason, Americans should be acquainted with, and feel able to discuss, ways our constitutional system can respond to those issue. One of those ways is through the animus doctrine. I hope this book contributes to Americans’ understandings of that idea, and stimulates critical thinking about it.