Monday, January 6, 2014

Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez case brief

Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez case brief summary
476 U.S. 898 (1986)

Appellee veterans brought suit against appellant State after being denied the veterans' employment preference because they were residents of Puerto Rico when they joined the military. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the prior residence requirement of N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law § 85 violated the Equal Protection Clause and the right to travel. The State appealed.

The court of appeals remanded to the district court with instructions to permanently enjoin the State from denying bonus points to otherwise qualified veterans who were not residents of the State at the time they entered the military service.

The question presented on appeal was whether a preference in civil service employment opportunities offered by the state solely to resident veterans who lived in the state at the time they entered military service violated the constitutional rights of the veterans who lived outside the state when they entered military service.


  • The court found the State's policy did not support a distinction between resident veterans based on their residence when they joined the military. 
  • Permissible discriminations between persons must be correlated to their relevant characteristics, and because prior residence had only a tenuous relation to the benefit the State received from all armed forces personnel, the goal of rewarding military service offered no support for the state's fixed residence requirement. 
  • The State's veterans' preference violated the veterans' constitutionally protected rights to migrate and to equal protection of the law.
The judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed.

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