Golden Gate University Law Review


This Comment argues that wealth-based discrimination claims concerning pretrial detention of indigents should be analyzed under an Equal Protection framework and subjected to intermediate scrutiny. In order to provide an overview of the Supreme Court precedent established for these types of claims, Part I of this Comment will discuss the relevant and historic Supreme Court cases which have analyzed wealth-based incarceration claims in the United States. To further establish how Federal Courts have treated wealth-based incarceration Equal Protection claims, Part II will discuss the Fifth Circuit’s relevant opinions. Part III outlines the court’s decision in Walker, discussing how the Eleventh Circuit panel arrived at its holding and consequently created a split among the federal circuit courts that is yet to be resolved.

This Comment further argues that the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Walker is erroneous. Part IV will outline why the Eleventh Circuit should have applied intermediate scrutiny to Walker’s wealth-based discrimination claim, and highlights the fallacious logic the court employed in reaching its holding. Additionally, this section will also argue that Walker sets a harmful precedent for indigent defendants. Wealth-based discrimination claims concerning an indigent’s pretrial liberty are categorically different from other wealth-based discrimination claims which don’t concern a liberty right. As such, these claims should be analyzed with a heightened level of scrutiny beyond mere rational basis review.