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Shapiro v. Thompson

Citation. 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs in several states challenged their respective state rules conditioning welfare assistance on one-year residency requirements on Equal Protection grounds

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

State residency requirements for public assistance are unconstitution


The case arose out of three appeals from three states. Each had denied welfare assistance to residents because they did not meet the state’s respective one-year residency requirement. Plaintiffs challenged the rules under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Whether a state can condition welfare assistance on residency requirements under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


No. A state cannot condition welfare assistance on residency requirements under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Justice Warren

Congress has the power to either impose minimal nationwide residence requirements or authorize the states to do so. The Court, however, does not, so I must dissent.

Justice Harlan

There is sound justification to apply strict scrutiny to cases involving race-based classifications. Today’s extension, however, is unwise. It creates an exception which threatens to swallow the standard equal protection rule. We are not a super-legislature and this doctrine is unnecessary.


Justice Stewart

Today’s opinion simply recognizes, as it must, an established constitutional right, and gives to that right no less protection than the Constitution demands.


This Court has long recognized the fundamental right to travel throughout the length and breadth of our land uninhibited by statutes, rules or regulations. Thus, the purpose for deterring the in-migration of indigents cannot serve as justification for the classification created by the one-year waiting period, since such purpose would be constitutionally impermissible. A state may no more try to fence out indigents who seek higher welfare benefits than it may try to fence out indigents generally.

Since the classification here touches on the fundamental right of interstate movement, its constitutionality must be judge by the stricter standard of whether it promotes a compelling state interest. Under this standard, the waiting period requirement clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause. Judgement affirmed.

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