“Legitimate State Interest”

27 years ago today, in 1987, the case of Nollan v. California Coastal Commission was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.

A few months later, when the opinion was delivered, it included one of the dumbest (or maybe scariest) lines in the history of American law:

Our cases have not elaborated on the standards for determining what constitutes a “legitimate state interest”…

To paraphrase Tim Sandefur‘s thoughts on the matter: On the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States – even with the aid of the Federalist Papers – the nation’s best lawyers, on the highest court in the land, still have no idea what the government exists to do.

This is the state of things, folks.

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