Edwards v. People of State of California, No. 17

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBYRNES
Citation314 U.S. 160,86 L.Ed. 119,62 S.Ct. 164
Docket NumberNo. 17
Decision Date24 November 1941
PartiesEDWARDS v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF CALIFORNIA. Re

314 U.S. 160
62 S.Ct. 164
86 L.Ed. 119
EDWARDS

v.

PEOPLE OF STATE OF CALIFORNIA.

No. 17.
Reargued Oct. 21, 1941.
Decided Nov. 24, 1941.

Page 161

Mr. Samuel Slaff, of New York City, for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 161-163 intentionally omitted]

Page 164

Mr. John H. Tolan, of Oakland, Cal., for the Select Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States, appointed pursuant to House Resolution No. 63, April 22, 1940, to investigate Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens, as amicus curiae by special leave of Court.

[Amicus Curiae Information from Pages 164-168 intentionally omitted]

Page 169

Mr. W. T. Sweigert, of San Francisco, Cal., for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from Page 169 intentionally omitted]

Page 170

Mr. Justice BYRNES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The facts of this case are simple and are not disputed. Appellant is a citizen of the United States and a resident of California. In December, 1939, he left his home in Marysville, California, for Spur, Texas, with the intention of bringing back to Marysville, his wife's brother, Frank Duncan, a citizen of the United States and a resident of Texas.

Page 171

When he arrived in Texas, appellant learned that Duncan had last been employed by the Works Progress Administration. Appellant thus became aware of the fact that Duncan was an indigent person and he continued to be aware of it throughout the period involved in this case. The two men agreed that appellant should transport Duncan from Texas to Marysville in appellant's automobile. Accordingly, they left Spur on January 1, 1940, entered California by way of Arizona on January 3, and reached Marysville on January 5. When he left Texas, Duncan had about $20. It had all been spent by the time he reached Marysville. He lived with appellant for about ten days until he obtained financial assistance from the Farm Security Administration. During the ten day interval, he had no employment.

In Justice Court a complaint was filed against appellant under Section 2615 of the Welfare and Institutions Code of California, St.1937, p. 1406, which provides: 'Every person, firm or corporation, or officer or agent thereof that brings or assists in bringing into the State any indigent person who is not a resident of the State, knowing him to be an indigent person, is guilty of a misdemeanor.' On demurrer to the complaint, appellant urged that the Section violated several provisions of the Federal Constitution. The demurrer was overruled, the cause was tried, appellant was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment in the county jail, and sentence was suspended.

On appeal to the Superior Court of Yuba County, the facts as stated above were stipulated. The Superior Court, although regarding as 'close' the question of the validity of the Section, felt 'constrained to uphold the statute as a valid exercise of the police power of the State of California'. Consequently, the conviction was affirmed. No appeal to a higher state court was open to appellant. We noted probable jurisdiction early last

Page 172

term, and later ordered reargument (313 U.S. 545, 61 S.Ct. 956, 85 L.Ed. 1511) which has been held.

At the threshold of our inquiry a question arises with respect to the interpretation of Section 2615. On reargument, the Attorney General of California has submitted an exposition of the history of the Section, which reveals that statutes similar, though not identical to it have been in effect in California since 1860, see Cal.Stat. 1860, p. 213; Cal.Stat. 1901, p. 636; Cal.Stat.1933, p. 2005. Neither under these forerunners nor under Section 2615 itself does the term 'indigent person' seem to have been accorded an authoritative interpretation by the California courts. The appellee claims for the Section a very limited scope. It urges that the term 'indigent person' must be taken to include only persons who are presently destitute of property and without resources to obtain the necessities of life, and who have no relatives or friends able and willing to support them. It is conceded, however, that the term is not confined to those who are physically or mentally incapacitated. While the generality of the language of the Section contains no hint of these limitations, we are content to assign to the term this narrow meaning.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution delegates to the Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce. And it is settled beyond question that the transportation of persons is 'commerce', within the meaning of that provision.1 It is nevertheless true that the States are not wholly precluded from exercising their police power in matters of local concern even though they may thereby affect inter-

Page 173

state commerce. California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109, 113, 61 S.Ct. 930, 932, 85 L.Ed. 1219. The issue presented in this case, therefore, is whether the prohibition embodied in Section 2615 against the 'bringing' or transportation of indigent persons into California is within the police power of that State. We think that it is not, and hold that it is an unconstitutional barrier to interstate commerce.

The grave and perplexing social and economic dislocation which this statute reflects is a matter of common knowledge and concern. We are not unmindful of it. We appreciate that the spectacle of large segments of our population constantly on the move has given rise to urgent demands upon the ingenuity of government. Both the brief of the Attorney General of California and that of the Chairman of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States as amicus curiae have sharpened this appreciation. The State asserts that the huge influx of migrants into California in recent years has resulted in problems of health, morals, and especially finance, the proportions of which are staggering. It is not for us to say that this is not true. We have repeatedly and recently affirmed, and we now reaffirm, that we do not conceive it our function to pass upon 'the wisdom, need, or appropriateness' of the legislative efforts of the States to solve such difficulties. See Olsen v. Nebraska, 313 U.S. 236, 246, 61 S.Ct. 862, 865, 85 L.Ed. 1305, 133 A.L.R. 1500.

But this does not mean that there are no boundaries to the permissible area of State legislative activity. There are. And none is more certain than the prohibition against attempts on the part of any single State to isolate itself from difficulties common to all of them by restraining the transportation of persons and property across its borders. It is frequently the case that a State might gain a momentary respite from the pressure of events by the simple expedient of shutting its gates to the outside world. But, in the words of Mr. Justice Cardozo: 'The Constitution was

Page 174

framed under the dominion of a political philosophy less parochial in range. It was framed upon the theory that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that in the long run prosperity and salvation are in union and not division.' Baldwin v. Seelig, 294 U.S. 511, 523, 55 S.Ct. 497, 500, 79 L.Ed. 1032, 101 A.L.R. 55.

It is difficult to conceive of a statute more squarely in conflict with this theory than the Section challenged here. Its express purpose and inevitable effect is to prohibit the transportation of indigent persons across the California border. The burden upon interstate commerce is intended and immediate; it is the plain and sole function of the statute. Moreover, the indigent non-residents who are the real victims of the statute are deprived of the opportunity to exert political pressure upon the California legislature in order to obtain a change in policy. South Carolina Highway Department v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177, 185, note 2, 58 S.Ct. 510, 513, 82 L.Ed. 734. We think this statute must fail under any known test of the validity of State interference with interstate commerce.

It is urged, however, that the concept which underlies Section 2615 enjoys a firm basis in English and American history.2 This is the notion that each community should care for its own indigent, that relief is solely the responsibility of local government. Of this it must first be said that we are not now called upon to determine anything other than the propriety of an attempt by a State to prohibit the transportation of indigent non-residents into its territory. The nature and extent of its obligation to afford relief to newcomers is not here involved. We do, however, suggest that the theory of the Elizabethan poor laws no longer fits the facts. Recent years, and particularly the past decade, have been marked by a growing recognition that in an industrial society the task of pro-

Page 175

viding assistance to the needy has ceased to be local in character. The duty to share the burden, if not wholly to assume it, has been recognized not only by State governments, but by the Federal government as well. The changed attitude is reflected in the Social Security laws under which the Federal and State governments cooperate for the care of the aged, the blind and dependent children. U.S.C., Title 42, §§ 301—1307, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 301—1307, esp. §§ 301, 501, 601, 701, 721, 801, 1201. It is reflected in the works programs under which work is furnished the unemployed, with the States supplying approximately 25% and the Federal government approximately 75% of the cost. See, e.g., Joint Resolution of June 26, 1940, c. 432, § 1(d), 76th Cong., 3rd Sess., 54 Stat. 611, 613, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 721—728. It is further reflected in the Farm Security laws, under which the entire cost of the relief provisions is borne by the Federal government. Id., at §§ 2(a), 2(b), 2(d).

Indeed the record in this very case illustrates the inadequate basis in fact for the theory that relief is presently a local matter. Before leaving Texas, Duncan had received assistance from the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
330 practice notes
  • Zobel v. Williams, No. 80-1146
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1982
    ...of Art. IV. But equally plausible, I think, is the argument that the right resides in the Commerce Clause, see Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 173, 62 S.Ct. 164, 166, 86 L.Ed. 119 (1941), or in the Privileges and Immunities Page 67 Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see id., at 177-17......
  • Mahaley v. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Civ. A. No. C 71-251
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • February 22, 1973
    ...some circumstances legislative enactments which have discriminated on the basis of wealth have been struck down. Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S.Ct. 164, 86 L.Ed. 119 (1941) invalidated a state law which made it a crime for an individual to assist an indigent in entering the State......
  • Powell v. United States Cartridge Co Aaron v. Ford, Bacon Davis Creel v. Lone Star Defense Corporation 8212 1949, Nos. 96
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 8, 1950
    ...hours). * * *' 52 Stat. 1062, 1063, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206(a) and 207(a), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 206(a), 207(a). 14. E.g., Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S.Ct. 164, 86 L.Ed. 119; Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522; Thornton v. United States, 271 U.S. 414, 46 S.Ct. 5......
  • Snell v. Wyman, No. 67 Civ. 2676.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • February 29, 1968
    ...constitutional freedom, the right of interstate travel as it was specifically enforced in Edwards v. People of State of California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S.Ct. 164, 86 L.Ed. 119 (1941). The differences from the situation before us are patent. Similarly far removed is the problem presented by sec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
321 cases
  • Zobel v. Williams, No. 80-1146
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1982
    ...of Art. IV. But equally plausible, I think, is the argument that the right resides in the Commerce Clause, see Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 173, 62 S.Ct. 164, 166, 86 L.Ed. 119 (1941), or in the Privileges and Immunities Page 67 Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see id., at 177-17......
  • Mahaley v. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Civ. A. No. C 71-251
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • February 22, 1973
    ...some circumstances legislative enactments which have discriminated on the basis of wealth have been struck down. Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S.Ct. 164, 86 L.Ed. 119 (1941) invalidated a state law which made it a crime for an individual to assist an indigent in entering the State......
  • Powell v. United States Cartridge Co Aaron v. Ford, Bacon Davis Creel v. Lone Star Defense Corporation 8212 1949, Nos. 96
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 8, 1950
    ...hours). * * *' 52 Stat. 1062, 1063, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206(a) and 207(a), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 206(a), 207(a). 14. E.g., Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S.Ct. 164, 86 L.Ed. 119; Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124, 56 S.Ct. 395, 80 L.Ed. 522; Thornton v. United States, 271 U.S. 414, 46 S.Ct. 5......
  • Snell v. Wyman, No. 67 Civ. 2676.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • February 29, 1968
    ...constitutional freedom, the right of interstate travel as it was specifically enforced in Edwards v. People of State of California, 314 U.S. 160, 62 S.Ct. 164, 86 L.Ed. 119 (1941). The differences from the situation before us are patent. Similarly far removed is the problem presented by sec......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • ON THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF HARD STATE BORDER CLOSURES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 35 Nbr. 1, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...255, 260-61 (3d Cir. 1990). See also, Steinbach, supra note 53, at 421; Wilhelm, supra note 52, at 2466-67. (63) Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 178 (64) See Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489, 502 (1999) (arguing that the right to interstate travel "is protected not only by the new arrival's ......
  • The Hatch Act Cases
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 1-2, June 1948
    • June 1, 1948
    ...v. Harvey, 296 U.S. 404, 444, 80 L. Ed. 299, 319 (1935). 8 See Hague v. C.I.O., supra, n. 2.9Supra, n. 7. 10309 U.S. 83, 84 L. Ed. 590. 11 314 U.S. 160, 86 L. Ed. 119 trary, he rejected the argument that the financial exigencies of the state of California were a valid ground for limiting th......
  • The Legal Status and Problems of the American Abroad
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 368-1, November 1966
    • November 1, 1966
    ...there is also a constitutional right to travelwithin the United States, cf. Edwards v. zenship in the two remaining cases. The California, 314 U.S. 160, "that freedom only two Justices to vary were Mr. Justice not mean that areas ravaged by flood, fire Stewart (for expatriation in the Mendo......
  • Can We Grant a Right to Place?
    • United States
    • Politics & Society Nbr. 32-4, December 2004
    • December 1, 2004
    ...emphasis added.14. Rae, “Democratic Liberties and the Tyrannies of Place,” 174.15. Ibid. (emphasis added).16. Edwards v. California,314 U.S. 160 (1941).17. Shapiro v. Thompson, (1969) and Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa, 415 U.S. 250(1974) 394 U.S. 618.18. Paul Dimond, “Empowering Families to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT