476 U.S. 898 (1986), 84-1803, Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez

Docket Nº:No. 84-1803
Citation:476 U.S. 898, 106 S.Ct. 2317, 90 L.Ed.2d 899, 54 U.S.L.W. 4661
Party Name:Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez
Case Date:June 17, 1986
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 898

476 U.S. 898 (1986)

106 S.Ct. 2317, 90 L.Ed.2d 899, 54 U.S.L.W. 4661

Attorney General of New York

v.

Soto-Lopez

No. 84-1803

United States Supreme Court

June 17, 1986

Argued January 15, 1986

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The New York Constitution and Civil Service Law grant a civil service employment preference, in the form of points added to examination scores, to New York residents who are honorably discharged veterans of the Armed Forces, served during time of war, and were New York residents when they entered military service. Appellee Army veterans, long-time New York residents, passed the New York City civil service examinations, but were denied the veterans' preference because they were not New York residents when they joined the Army. They then brought an action in Federal District Court, alleging that the requirement that they have been New York residents when they joined the military violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and their constitutional right to travel. The District Court dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: The judgment is affirmed.

755 F.2d 266, affirmed.

JUSTICE BRENNAN, joined by JUSTICE MARSHALL, JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and JUSTICE POWELL, concluded that the prior resident requirement of the New York civil service veterans' preference laws violates appellees' constitutionally protected right to travel and to equal protection of the law. Pp. 901-912.

(a) The right to travel includes the freedom to enter and reside in any State, and a state law implicates that right when it actually deters such travel, when impeding travel is its primary objective, or when, as here, it uses a classification that penalizes the exercise of that right. When the latter is involved, heightened scrutiny of the law is required to determine its constitutionality, and the State must come forward with a compelling justification. Pp. 901-906.

(b) New York has not met its burden of proving that it has selected a means of pursuing a compelling state interest that does not impinge unnecessarily on constitutionally protected interests. The justifications offered in support of the prior residence requirement -- encouraging New York residents to join the Armed Forces, helping war veterans reestablish themselves, inducing veterans to return to New York, and employing a "uniquely valuable class of public servants" who possess

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useful experience acquired through military service -- fail to withstand heightened scrutiny. New York could accomplish these purposes without penalizing the right to travel by awarding special credits to all qualified veterans. Pp. 907-911.

CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER concluded that the New York prior residence requirement is invalid because it fails to meet the rational basis test under the Equal Protection Clause. Zobel v. Williams, 457 U.S. 55; Hooper v. Bernalillo County Assessor, 472 U.S. 612. Pp. 912-916.

JUSTICE WHITE concluded that the New York prior residence requirement denies equal protection of the laws because the classification it employs is irrational. P. 916.

[106 S.Ct. 2319] BRENNAN, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 912, and WHITE, J., post, p. 916, filed opinions concurring in the judgment. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post p. 916. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 918.

BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BRENNAN announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which JUSTICE MARSHALL, JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and JUSTICE POWELL join.

The question presented by this appeal is whether a preference in civil service employment opportunities offered by the State of New York solely to resident veterans who lived in the State at the time they entered military service violates the constitutional rights of resident veterans who lived outside the State when they entered military service.

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I

The State of New York, through its Constitution, N.Y. Const., Art. V, § 6, and its Civil Service Law, N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law § 85 (McKinney 1983 and Supp.1986), grants a civil service employment preference, in the form of points added to examination scores, to New York residents who are honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces, who served during time of war, and who were residents of New York when they entered military service.1 This preference may be exercised only once, either for original hiring or for one promotion. N.Y. Const., Art. V, § 6.

Appellees, Eduardo Soto-Lopez and Eliezer Baez-Hernandez, are veterans of the United States Army and long-time residents of New York. Both men claim to have met all the eligibility criteria for the New York State civil service preference except New York residence when they entered the Army. Both Soto-Lopez and Baez-Hernandez

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passed New York City civil service examinations, but were denied the veterans' preference by the New York City Civil Service Commission because they were residents of Puerto Rico at the time they joined the military. Appellees sued the city in Federal District Court, alleging that the requirement of residence when they joined the military violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the constitutionally protected right to travel. The Attorney General of the State of New York intervened as a defendant.

The District Court dismissed appellees' complaint, holding that this Court's summary affirmance in August v. Bronstein, 417 U.S. 901 (1974), aff'g 369 F.Supp.190 (SDNY), a case in which a three-judge panel upheld against equal protection and right-to-travel [106 S.Ct. 2320] challenges the same sections of the New York State Constitution and Civil Service Law at issue in the instant action, compelled that result. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. Soto-Lopez v. New York City Civil Service Comm'n, 755 F.2d 266 (1985). It concluded that August, supra, had implicitly been overruled by our more recent decision in Zobel v. Williams, 457 U.S. 55 (1982), and held that the prior residence requirement of the New York civil service preference offends both the Equal Protection Clause and the-right to travel. The Court of Appeals remanded with various instructions, including the direction that the District Court permanently enjoin the defendants from denying bonus points to otherwise qualified veterans who were not residents of New York at the time they entered the military service. We noted probable jurisdiction of this appeal of the Attorney General of New York. 473 U.S. 903 (1985). We affirm.

II

"`[F]reedom to travel throughout the United States has long been recognized as a basic right under the Constitution.'" Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 338 (1972) (quoting United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 758 (1966)). See, e.g.,

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Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, 492 (1849) (Taney, C.J., dissenting); Crandall v. Nevada, 6 Wall. 35, 43-44 (1868); Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, 180 (1869); Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 (1941); Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 126 (1968); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629-631, 634 (1969); Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 237 (1970) (separate opinion of BRENNAN, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ.); id. at 285-286 (Stewart, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part, with whom BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined); Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250, 254 (1974). And it is clear that the freedom to travel includes the "`freedom to enter and abide in any State in the Union.'" Dunn, supra at 338 (quoting Mitchell, supra at 285).

The textual source of the constitutional right to travel, or, more precisely, the right of free interstate migration, though, has proved elusive. It has been variously assigned to the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Art. IV, see, e.g., Zobel, supra, at 71 (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in judgment), to the Commerce Clause, see Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. at 173-174, and to the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see, e.g., id. at 177-178 (Douglas, J., concurring). The right has also been inferred from the federal structure of government adopted by our Constitution. Zobel, supra, at 67 (BRENNAN, J., concurring); Shapiro, supra, at 631; United States v. Guest, supra, at 757-758. However, in light of the unquestioned historic acceptance of the principle of free interstate migration, and of the important role that principle has played in transforming many States into a single Nation, we have not felt impelled to locate this right definitively in any particular constitutional provision.2 Shapiro, supra, at 630.

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Whatever its [106 S.Ct. 2321] origin, the right to migrate is firmly established, and has been repeatedly recognized by our cases. See, e.g., Hooper v. Bernalillo County Assessor, 472 U.S. 612, 618, n. 6 (1985); Zobel, supra, at 60, n. 6; Jones v. Helms, 452 U.S. 412, 418 (1981); Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, supra; Dunn, supra; Shapiro, supra; United States v. Guest, supra, at 757-759.

A state law implicates the right to travel when it actually deters such travel, see, e.g., Crandall v. Nevada, supra, at 46; see also Shapiro, supra, at 629, when impeding travel is its primary objective, see Zobel, supra, at 62, n. 9; Shapiro, supra, at 628-631, or when it uses "`any classification which serves to penalize the exercise of that right.'" Dunn, supra, at 340 (quoting Shapiro, supra, at 634). Our right-to-migrate cases have principally involved the latter, indirect manner of burdening the right. More particularly, our recent cases...

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