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Saenz v. Roe

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Brief Fact Summary. California passed a law that awarded less welfare benefits to residents who lived in California for less than 12 months than it paid other residents.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution), a State must provide the same benefits to new residents as it does to other residents.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

We are all citizens of the United States; and, as members of the same community, must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own States.

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Facts. California enacted a law limiting the welfare benefits for citizens who lived in California for less than 12 months. The welfare family would be paid the amount they received in their last state of residence. The Respondents, Brenda Roe and Anna Doe (Respondents) recently moved to California and challenged the law on equal protection grounds. The district court preliminarily enjoined implementation of the statute and the court of appeals affirmed.

Issue. Does a statute providing lower benefits to families who have lived in California for less than 12 months violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution?

Held. Yes, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) applies the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment Privileges and Immunities Clause for nearly the first history. The Supreme Court determined that durational residency requirements violate the right to travel by denying a newly-arrived citizen the same privileges and immunities enjoyed by other citizens in the same state, and are therefore subject to strict scrutiny. The state’s legitimate interest in saving money provides no justification for its diction to discriminate among equally eligible citizens.

Dissent. Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist).
J. Rehnquist does not like the fact that the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution has only been applied once before and was overruled five years later. J. Rehnquist felt that California;s law was a good faith residency requirement.

Dissent. Justice Clarence Thomas (J. Thomas).
J. Thomas thinks the majority applies a meaning to the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution that the framers did not intend. The Slaughter-House Cases, he contends, drained the Privileges and Immunities Clause of any meaning. J. Thomas fears the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges and Immunities Clause will be a new tool for inventing rights.

Discussion. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of the citizens of the United States.” The right to equal benefits is protected throughout the states of the United States. It has been understood that the Privileges and Immunities clause protects the right to travel. The Supreme Court did not think rational basis test or intermediate scrutiny applied here. The right to travel includes a citizen’s right to be treated equally after residing in a new state.

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