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Edwards v. California


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314 U.S. 160 (1941), argued 28 Apr. 1941, reargued 21 Oct. 1941, decided 24 Nov. 1941 by vote of 9 to o; Byrnes for the Court, Douglas and Jackson concurring. The Supreme Court has long recognized a constitutional right to travel, even though the source of the right remains obscure. The Court upheld this right, even though further obscuring its source, in Edwards v. California.

In Edwards, the Court relied on the Commerce Clause of Article I, section 8 to invalidate a California statute, popularly known as the “Okie Law.” The statute prohibited a person from bringing any nonresident indigent person into California. The Court held that the transportation of persons constituted commerce within the meaning of the clause. The Court suggested in dicta that it would not accept stereotypical judgments about the poor as justification for laws discriminating against them. Justice Robert H. Jackson, concurring, urged the Court to hold that interstate travel is a privilege of U.S. citizenship and that the statute violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jackson argued that a person's property status should not be used by a state to qualify one's rights as a citizen of the United States.

The legacy of Edwards is twofold. First, it strengthened the constitutional right of travel. Second, it foreshadowed later court decisions that voided statutes discriminating against the poor.

Patrick M. Garry

Subjects: Law.


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