Frazier v. Heebe

LOCATION: Ronald Dunn’s Ranch

DOCKET NO.: 86-475
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 641 (1987)
ARGUED: Apr 29, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1987

Curtis R. Boisfontaine - on behalf of the Respondents
Cornish F. Hitchcock - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Frazier v. Heebe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1987 in Frazier v. Heebe

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments first this morning in No. 86-475, David C. Frazier v. Frederick J.R. Heebe, et al.--

Mr. Hitchcock, you may proceed whenever you're ready.


Cornish F. Hitchcock:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case presents important questions about the practice of law and the administration of justice in our Federal district courts.

At issue is a rule of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana which requires members of that court's bar to live or have an office in the State of Louisiana.

In order to focus on the precise nature of the dispute, it's useful to identify what this rule requires.

Under the rule, members of the Eastern District bar must be located in the Eastern District, the Middle District or the Western District of Louisiana.

And in order to see how the rule operates vis-a-vis the petitioner, it may be useful to consult the map that we prepared in our opening brief as an appendix at page 6A.

Mr. Frazier's application was denied because he lives and practices in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which is approximately 110 miles from New Orleans.

By contrast, a lawyer located in Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is 200 miles from New Orleans, may be admitted to the Eastern District bar, and a lawyer located in Shreveport, Louisiana, 300 miles from New Orleans, may also be admitted to the Eastern District bar.

Indeed, lawyers from Lake Charles or Shreveport may serve as local counsel for lawyers such as Mr. Frazier in practicing in New Orleans, even though they're twice the distance from the courthouse.

In our brief, we have advanced several reasons why we believe this rule is invalid, but it boils down to essentially one complaint.

As the Court of Appeals recognized, this rule is both overinclusive as well as underinclusive.

And however it may be analyzed, we submit that it does not advance the goals of lawyer competence and availability for hearings that are attributed to it.

In our view, this Court's decision in Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper provides the proper analytical framework for deciding the case.

And in mentioning Piper, I want to focus exactly on what we are arguing and are not arguing.

We recognize that Piper was decided under the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV, which is a direct limitation on state action and not on federal action; and we are not making a claim for relief under Article IV.

What we are saying is that this rule is a violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

And in urging the Court to so hold, we are asking the Court to employ the analysis that was used in Piper in the context of analyzing this rule, just as the Court has incorporated equal protection analysis as a component of Fifth Amendment due process.

There are several reasons why we believe such analysis is appropriate here.

The rule in the Eastern District of Louisiana, with its exclusion of lawyers from out of the state--

Excuse me, Mr. Hitchcock, before you go any further, that's a little difficult to do, because the privileges and immunities analysis prevents discrimination between citizens from different states, rights, on the basis of statehood.

But the Federal Government does that all the time, and the Constitution specifically says when it is that the government can't discriminate between the states, in certain types of taxation for example.

But the government very often provides particular benefits or takes particular action which just affects one state and not others.

So how can you possibly apply the state discrimination concept of the privileges and immunities clause to the due process clause?

Cornish F. Hitchcock:

--The distinction in this case, as opposed to traditional cases where Congress passes a law, or national body engages in linedrawing of that nature, is, we have here a rule that was adopted by a local unit of the Federal Government that is exercising delegated authority, not--

Why would you treat that differently from something enacted by Congress?

I mean, supposing the regional director of the EPA in San Francisco adopts a particular rule.

Now, it may have problems with parochialism, but nonetheless, we treat is an exercise of delegated authority from the United States.