Constitutional Sunsets and Experimental Legislation

Constitutional Sunsets and Experimental Legislation

a Comparative Perspective

Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series

Sofia Ranchordás

This innovative book explores the nature and function of ‘sunset clauses’ and experimental legislation, or temporary legislation that expires after a determined period of time, allowing legislators to test out new rules and regulations within a set time frame and on a small-scale basis. Sofia Ranchordás presents a thorough analysis of sunset clauses and experimental legislation from a comparative perspective, and offers a clear legal framework for their implementation.

Chapter 5: The principle of equal treatment

Sofia Ranchordás

Subjects: law - academic, comparative law, constitutional and administrative law, politics and public policy, public policy


As described in Chapter 2, any experiment implies distinguishing between two separate groups: the control and the sample groups. Experimental laws and regulations should share this characteristic with natural science experiments, if their results are intended to be valid. While a differentiation may easily threaten the idea that all citizens should be equal before the law, it is a more complex issue to claim that experimental legislation discriminates against a group of citizens. It is thus important to understand whether sunset clauses, and particularly experimental legislation, can imperil the principle of equal treatment. The first step in this analysis requires a study of the meaning(s) of this principle in light of the literature and case law of the jurisdictions under analysis and, where relevant, the influence of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) and European Court of Human Rights. The principle of equal treatment (equal protection or equality) has been described as ‘the standard’ of the Dutch Constitution. Article 1 imposes the equal treatment of all inhabitants and forbids discrimination on any subjective ground. This is far from being a specificity of the Netherlands: the principle of equal treatment must be of cardinal importance for any state that wishes to qualify itself as a Rechtsstaat. In the United States, the equal protection clause constitutionalized in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution also safeguards ‘equality’.

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