Legal Memorandum: Finding equal protection concerns are sufficiently implicated in a matter

Issue: Under Illinois law, when should a court find that equal-protection concerns are sufficiently implicated in a matter?

Area of Law: Uncategorized
Keywords: ; Equal Protection; Government; Selective Enforcement; Equal Protection Clause
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 53 F.3d 176
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

"The equal[-]protection clause requires that the government treat similarly situated individuals in a similar fashion, unless the government can demonstrate an appropriate reason to treat them differently." People v. Masterson, 2011 IL 110072, ¶ 24.  Selective enforcement generally does not implicate equal-protection concerns, however, under Esmail v. Macrane, 53 F.3d 176 (7th Cir. 1995), selective enforcement can sometimes rise to the level of an equal-protection violation.

In Esmail, the plaintiff alleged that the mayor of Naperville, who was also its liquor-control commissioner, had denied the plaintiff’s application for a license renewal and denied his request for a second license as part of a " ‘campaign of vengeance’ " against the plaintiff, that the reasons for the denials were "either trivial or trumped-up charges, " and that state courts had reversed the denials. Id. at 178. The complaint listed numerous examples of other liquor licensees who had been guilty of violations more serious than those of which the plaintiff had been accused, but who were punished more lightly if at all. Id. Finally, the plaintiff alleged that the denials were based on a personal animosity resulting from his having had a prior license revocation overturned, from his advertising campaign against underage drinking (which implicitly accused village officials of lax enforcement), and from his having withdrawn political support from the mayor. Id.

The Seventh Circuit held that these allegations, if true, stated an equal-protection violation. The court observed that selective enforcement per se, whether due to "ineptitude or (more […]

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