Saenz v. Roe Case Brief

Summary of Saenz v. Roe


California statute limits the amount of welfare benefits payable to a new resident (less than a year) to the amount payable by the state of the family’s prior residence. CA says that the statute should pass the RR test because the state has a legitimate interest in saving $10 mil./year.


CA argues that it doesn’t penalize the right to travel because new arrivals are still given benefits during their first year of residence.

  • But the right to travel is broader than just protecting the rights of a citizen to enter and leave a state. The right to travel includes the right to the same privileges and immunities as other citizens of that state (14th amendment privileges and immunities clause).

Shapiro ruled that it was impermissible for a state to enact durational residency requirements for the purpose of inhibiting the migration by needy persons into the state.

  • The need for welfare benefits it totally unrelated to the length of the stay in that state.
  • You can’t compare it to cases in which we allow waiting periods (like a college education) because in those cases there is a readily portable benefit that can be enjoyed after they return to their original state. Welfare benefits aren’t portable because they can only be enjoyed while in the current state.
  • In regards to the interest in saving $10 million a year—the state could do this just as easily by evenhandedly reducing benefits by 72 cents a month for every beneficiary.


The statute violates the constitution.


Rehnquist dissent:

  • I don’t agree with broadening scope of the “right to travel". In a narrow scope definition, the right to travel isn’t affected at all. Only the right to immediately enjoy all the benefits of full citizenship is at stake.
  • I think the waiting period for welfare benefits should be allowed because we already allow waiting periods for educational benefits. Welfare benefits of course will be spent in California, but the benefits of becoming employable will travel with the person wherever he goes.
  • I think there is a permissible interest in assuring that services provided for residents are enjoyed only by residents

Thomas dissent:

  • Wants to find out the original meaning of the privileges and immunities clause.
  • Believes that it originally protected against fundamental right infringement only, not to applied to every public benefit.

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