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Saenz v. Roe

    Brief Fact Summary. A California statute required families to live in California for twelve months before becoming eligible for full welfare benefits. In the interim, they were limited to the amount payable by the State of the family’s prior residence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. States may not discriminate against non-residents in such a manner that denies them the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the citizens of that State.

    Facts. A California statute required families to live in California for twelve months before becoming eligible for full welfare benefits. In the interim, they were limited to the amount payable by the State of the family’s prior residence. For example, a family of two moving from Arizona would be eligible for only $275/month, where a California resident would be eligible for $456/month.

    Issue. May a State discriminate against non-citizens who travel to the State with regard to current residents?

    Held. No. Court of Appeals ruling affirmed.
    Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) notes that the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution) guarantees to citizens of other States the ability to be treated in the same manner as a citizen of a State to which he they are traveling. This should be the same whether they are transiently in the new State or a traveling to settle in the new state.
    California did not advance a discriminatory intent to the law, but rather noted it would save the State almost $11 million annually. J. Stevens noted that saving is an important issue, but that the discriminatory means is inappropriate to the ends advanced.

    Dissent. Chief Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist) disapproves of the use of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution and the insistence on viewing the activities as part of “travel.” J. Rehnquist notes that when a citizen settles in another State, he is no longer a traveler.

    Discussion. The travel argument by J. Rehnquist is suspect. If he agrees that one is entitled to all privileges and immunities when traveling, why should one lose these when one becomes a citizen after traveling has ended.


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