• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court, in striking down a law barring indigents from entering California, strengthened the constitutional right to travel, especially for poor citizens.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that California’s Great Depression era “Okie Law” was unconstitutional in its attempt to bar any person from bringing an indigent person into California. Justice James F. Byrnes,Byrnes, James F.;Edwards v. California[Edwards v. California] in his opinion for the Court, relied on Article I, section 8 of the Constitution (the commerce clause) and viewed the issue as the transportation of people as if they were property in interstate commerce. In his concurrence, Justice Robert H. Jackson agreed with the result but attacked the reasoning. He objected to equating people with property to give them constitutional rights as U.S. citizens. Jackson argued that the Fourteenth Amendment’s privileges and immunities clause should be used to grant people the right to travel across state lines, which he saw as a basic feature of U.S. citizenship. Jackson’s view would strengthen the privileges and immunities clause, which is not frequently cited by the Court.Travel, right to;Edwards v. California[Edwards v. California]

In his majority opinion on Edwards, Justice James F. Byrnes drew on the Constitution's commerce clause.

(Library of Congress)

Commerce, regulation of

Privileges and immunities

Travel, right to

Categories: History