Shapiro v. Thompson Case Brief

Summary of Shapiro v. Thompson

Facts: Statute denies welfare to residents who haven’t resided within their jurisdictions for at least one year.

Procedural History: Federal court held the statute unconstitutional.

Issue: Does the statute discriminating on the basis of length of residency violate the EPC?

Holding: Yes, the statute violates the EPC.

Reasoning: Justifications proposed by D:

  1. the statute preserves the fiscal integrity of state welfare programs because those who require welfare assistance during their first year of residency are likely to be long-term welfare recipients
    1. but, the purpose of inhibiting migration by needy persons into the state is constitutionally impermissible
    2. all citizens are free to travel throughout the country uninhibited by statutes
  2. the statute discourages those indigents who would enter the state soley to obtain larger benefits
    1. same reasoning as above.
    2. Further, would you deny the mother admission to the state because she comes here solely for the purpose of finding better schools for her children?
  3. the statute benefits those who have made contributions to the community through payments of taxes
    1. but, this logically permits the state to deny new residents from schools
  4. there may be a permissible interest in limiting expenditures, but not through the use of distinctions between classes of citizens
  5. Four administrative objectives
    1. Facilitates budget prediction (unfounded)
    2. Serves as an administratively efficient rule of thumb for determining residency (no, the welfare agency already individually reviews files)
    3. Safeguard against fraudulent receipt of benefits (less drastic measures are available)
    4. Encourages new residents to join the labor force promptly (but then this should apply to long-term residents too)

The statute fails under the SS test because it doesn’t further a compelling state interest.

Judgment: Affirmed.


Warren dissent: The statute doesn’t burden travel because travel itself is not prohibited. There’s a compelling interest in providing adequate welfare system.

Harlan dissent:

  • Shouldn’t expand the “compelling interest" doctrine to apply to much more than racial classifications. Further, the majority says that it will apply the “compelling interest" doctrine to anything affecting a fundamental right. Well, pretty much anything can be considered a fundamental right. The exception threatens to swallow the standard equal protection rule.
  • Since the state thinks that the residence requirement rationally furthers valid governmental objectives, I see no problem with it.

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