ATTY. GEN. OF N.Y. V. SOTO-LOPEZ, 476 U. S. 898 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Atty. Gen. of N.Y. v. Soto-Lopez, 476 U.S. 898 (1986)

Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez

No. 84-1803

Argued January 15, 1986

Decided June 17, 1986

476 U.S. 898


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. 476 U. S. 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. 476 U. S. 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

Page 476 U. S. 899

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. 476 U. S. 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. 476 U. S. 916.

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. 476 U. S. 912, and WHITE, J., post, p. 476 U. S. 916, filed opinions concurring in the judgment. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post p. 476 U. S. 916. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 476 U. S. 918.

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