Wednesday, November 07, 2007, 3:03 PM

Fourth Circuit: Equal Protection Clause Not A Means For Policing Economic Policy

In Van Der Linde Housing, Inc. v. Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, the Fourth Circuit underscored that governmental entities have a free hand in devising economic policies and creating differentiated fee structures as long as those don't conflict with "elemental constitutional premises."

Van der Linde was a waste services business, and Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, a governmental entity fixing waste disposal fees. The Authority, among other things, negotiated waste facility space for waste haulers like Van Der Linde and charged a fee. Van der Linde sued, claiming that it had to pay the fee while another waste company, Allied Waste Systems, was spared.

The "extremely rational basis" for the discrimination, as the Fourth Circuit pointed out, was that Allied owned a waste facility and wasn't, like Van Der Linde, a hauler using others' space that the Authority helped arrange.

Van Der Linde argued that the differentiated fees could lead to negative unintended results like the monopolization of waste collection services. But the Fourth Circuit pointed out that the "Equal Protection Clause does not require the government to pursue sound economic policy, only one that does not offend entrenched constitutional principles."

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