1941 November 24

Supreme Court: The Poor Can Come to California!

 

In Edwards v. California, decided on this day, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a California law barring indigents from entering the state. California passed the law during the Depression in an effort to keep poor migrants out of the state and thereby avoid the costs of public relief.

The Court majority held that the law violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Justices William O. Douglas, joined by Hugo Black, Frank Murphy and Robert Jackson, however, argued that the law violated the Privileges and Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Justice Douglas in dissent: “. . . I am of the opinion that the right of persons to move freely from State to State occupies a more protected position in our constitutional system than does the movement of cattle, fruit, steel and coal across state lines . . . The conclusion that the right of free movement is a right of national citizenship stands on firm historical ground.”

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