fundamental rights | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction 

Fundamental Rights refer to a category of rights that the SCOTUS has set aside as deserving special protection from infringement by the government.

Fundamental rights refer to a category of rights that have been recognized by the United States Supreme Court as deserving special protection from infringement by the government. These rights are considered to be essential to the concept of individual liberty and the proper functioning of a democratic society. They are typically protected by the Bill of Rights and other constitutional amendments and have been the subject of numerous court cases and legal debates.

Some examples of fundamental rights include the right to free speech, the right to free exercise of religion, the right to due process of law, the right to privacy, and the right to bear arms. These rights are considered to be foundational to the concept of individual freedom and are protected by the Constitution and other laws.

The Supreme Court has played a critical role in defining and protecting fundamental rights. The Court has issued numerous landmark decisions that have clarified the scope and limitations of these rights and have set standards for how they are to be protected. For example, the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade [overturned] established a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion as a fundamental right, while the Court’s decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago affirmed the Second Amendment right to bear arms as a fundamental right.

In order to protect fundamental rights, the Supreme Court has adopted a standard of strict scrutiny, which requires the government to demonstrate a compelling interest in infringing upon these rights and to show that the infringement is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. This standard provides a high level of protection for fundamental rights and ensures that the government cannot infringe upon these rights without a strong justification.

The protection of fundamental rights is a critical aspect of a functioning democracy. These rights allow individuals to express themselves freely, practice their religion, and seek redress for grievances. They also ensure that individuals are protected from arbitrary government action and that they are given a fair and impartial hearing in legal proceedings.

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Last Modified: 04/25/2023


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