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Supreme Court of N.H. v. Piper

Citation. Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper, 470 U.S. 274, 105 S. Ct. 1272, 84 L. Ed. 2d 205, 53 U.S.L.W. 4238 (U.S. Mar. 4, 1985)
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Brief Fact Summary

Piper (Plaintiff), a Vermont resident, was denied permission to apply to the New Hampshire bar because of her nonresidency.

Synopsis of Rule of Law

A state may not disqualify a bar applicant because of nonresidency.


Piper (Plaintiff) resided in Vermont, approximately one-quarter mile from New Hampshire.  Plaintiff applied to the New Hampshire bar and was rejected because of a court rule mandating a residency requirement on bar members.  Plaintiff challenged this as a violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, § 2.  The court of appeals held the residency requirement unconstitutional.  The New Hampshire Supreme Court appealed.


May a state disqualify a bar applicant because of nonresidency?


(Powell, J.)  No.  A state may not disqualify a bar applicant because of nonresidency.  An article IV, § 2 privileges and immunities analysis requires two steps.  The first question is whether the right asserted is a privilege or immunity within the scope of the clause.  The right to livelihood has long been considered to be so.  The practice of law is an important part of the national economy, and is important to the securing of rights.  While an attorney is an officer of the court, his duties are not so bound up with the state that this office should be considered a state function.  The clause, therefore, applies.  The second question is whether state deprivation bears a substantial relationship to a legitimate objective.  The state’s justifications here include guaranteeing familiarity with local rules, maintaining discipline, ensuring availability, and encouraging pro bono work.  However, none of these goals appears to this Court to be significantly advanced by the challenged rule.  Therefore, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, § 2 bars the challenged rule.  Affirmed.


Certainly all state rights and privileges are not protected by the clause.  The Court has interpreted the clause to apply to those rights of a citizen as a citizen bearing on the vitality of the nation as a cohesive entity.  The right to livelihood falls within this.

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