HICKLIN V. ORBECK, 437 U. S. 518 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hicklin v. Orbeck, 437 U.S. 518 (1978)

Hicklin v. Orbeck

No. 77-324

Argued March 21, 1978

Decided June 22, 1978

437 U.S. 518


Appellants, at least five of whom are not residents of Alaska, challenged in state court the constitutionality of the "Alaska Hire" statute (which was enacted professedly for the purpose of reducing unemployment within the State) that requires that all Alaskan oil and gas leases, easements or right-of-way permits for oil and gas pipelines, and unitization agreements contain a requirement that qualified Alaska residents be hired in preference to nonresidents. The trial court upheld the statute. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed except for that part of the Act that contained a one-year durational residency requirement, which it held invalid.


1. The invalidation of the one-year durational residency requirement does not moot the case, since a controversy still exists between the nonresident appellants, none of whom can qualify as "residents" under the statutory definition, and the appellees, state officials. Those appellants thus have a continuing interest in restraining the statutory discrimination favoring state residents. P. 437 U. S. 523.

2. Alaska Hire violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Art. IV, § 2. Pp. 437 U. S. 523-534.

(a) Though the Clause "does not preclude disparity of treatment in the many situations where there are perfectly valid independent reasons for it," it "does bar discrimination against citizens of other States where there is no reason for the discrimination beyond the mere fact that they are citizens of other States." Toomer v. Witsell, 334 U. S. 385, 334 U. S. 396. See also Mullaney v. Anderson, 342 U. S. 415. Pp. 437 U. S. 524-526.

(b) Even under the dubious assumption that a State may validly alleviate its unemployment problem by requiring private employers within the State to discriminate against nonresidents, Alaska Hire cannot be upheld, for the record indicates that Alaska's unemployment was not attributable to the influx of nonresident job-seekers, but rather to the fact that a substantial number of Alaska's jobless residents were unemployed either because of lack of education and job training or because of geographical remoteness from job opportunities. Employment of nonresidents threatened to deny jobs to residents only to the extent that jobs for which untrained residents were being prepared might be filled

Page 437 U. S. 519

by nonresidents before the residents' training was completed. Moreover, even if a showing was made that nonresidents were "a peculiar source of the evil," Toomer v. Witsell, supra at 334 U. S. 398, at which Alaska Hire was aimed, the statute would still be invalid, for its discrimination against nonresidents does not bear a substantial relationship to the "evil" that they are said to present, since statutory preference over nonresidents is given to all Alaskans, not just those who are unemployed. Pp. 437 U. S. 526-528

(c) Alaska's ownership of the oil and gas that are the subject matter of Alaska Hire constitutes insufficient justification for the statute's pervasive discrimination against nonresidents. Alaska Hire's reach includes employers who have no connection with the State's oil and gas, perform no work on state land, have no contractual relationship with the State, and receive no payment from the State; and the Act's coverage is not limited to activities connected with the extraction of Alaska's oil and gas. Pp. 437 U. S. 528-531.

(d) The conclusion that Alaska Hire cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny is fortified by decisions under the Commerce Clause that circumscribe a State's ability to prefer its own citizens in the utilization of natural resources found within its borders but destined for interstate commerce. West v. Kansas Natural Gas, 221 U. S. 229; Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U. S. 553; and Foster Packing Co. v. Haydel, 278 U. S. 1. The oil and gas upon which Alaska hinges its discrimination are bound for out-of-state consumption and are of profound national importance, while the breadth of the discrimination mandated by Alaska Hire transcends the degree of resident bias that Alaska's ownership of the oil and gas can justifiably support. Pp. 437 U. S. 531-534.

565 P.2d 159, reversed. BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 437 U. S. 520

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