Hicklin v. Orbeck – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Hicklin v. Orbeck, 437 U.S. 518, 98 S. Ct. 2482, 57 L. Ed. 2d 397 (1978).
The Alaska Hire statute was enacted to reduce unemployment in the state by requiring that all Alaskan oil and gas leases, easements, or right-of-way permits for pipelines contain a requirement that qualified Alaska residents be hired in preference to non-residents. Hicklin and other plaintiffs brought suit against Commissioner of Labor Orbeck and other defendants in Alaska state court. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief against enforcement of the statute on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
The trial court upheld the validity of the statute and the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the statute, except for the one-year durational residency requirement which it held invalid. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.
- May a state pass a law requiring that qualified residents be hired in preference to non-residents?
- What is the purpose of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV Section 2?
- Does it matter that the state of Alaska owns the oil and gas that are the subject of the Alaska Hire statute?
Holding and Rule (Brennan)
- No. A state may not pass a law requiring that qualified residents be hired in preference to non-residents.
- The purpose of the Privileges and Clause is to place the citizens of each state on equal footing with citizens of other States with respect to the advantages of citizenship.
- No. The statute’s reach includes employers who have no connection with the State’s oil and gas, perform no work on state land, have no contractual relationship with the State, and receive no payment from the State.
While the Privileges and Immunities Clause does not preclude unequal treatment of residents as opposed to non-residents when there are valid reasons for it, the Clause does bar discrimination against non-residents when there is no reason for the discrimination beyond the mere fact that they are citizens of other States. The Clause inhibits state legislation that discriminates against non-residents, insures that non-residents enjoy the same freedoms in the acquisition and enjoyment of property and the pursuit of happiness, and secures the equal protection of state laws.
The Alaska Hire Act cannot be upheld because the record indicates that Alaska’s unemployment was not due to the influx of nonresidents, but rather to the fact that many Alaskans were unemployed either because of a lack of education and job training or geographical remoteness from job opportunities. Employment of nonresidents threatened to deny jobs to residents only to the extent that jobs might be filled by non-residents before the training of residents was completed.
Even if the defendants showed that that nonresidents were a peculiar source of the evil of Alaska’s unemployment, the statute would still be invalid because the discrimination does not bear a substantial relationship to the evil the non-residents are claimed to present, since preference is given to all Alaskans, not merely those who are unemployed. States may not show preference to their own citizens in the utilization of natural resources within their borders but destined for interstate commerce.
See Plessy v. Ferguson for a constitutional law case brief involving discrimination and the construction of the clause in the Fourteenth Amendment prohibiting the states from enacting or enforcing laws which abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens.