Hooper v. Bernalillo County Assessor

PETITIONER: Hooper
RESPONDENT: Bernalillo County Assessor
LOCATION: United States Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 84-231
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 472 US 612 (1985)
ARGUED: Feb 20, 1985
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1985

ADVOCATES:
Alvin D. Hooper - on behalf of the Appellants
H. Bartow Farr, III - on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Hooper v. Bernalillo County Assessor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1985 in Hooper v. Bernalillo County Assessor

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Hooper against County Assessor.

Mr. Hooper, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Alvin D. Hooper:

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

Appellant Alvin Hooper has been permanently denied a veterans property tax exemption which is given to other similarly situated veterans in New Mexico solely because he did not establish residence in that state prior to May 8, 1976.

The issue in this case is whether that denial by the Appellee Assessor denies his constitutional rights of state citizenship, equal protection, and his fundamental right of interstate migration.

The Court of Appeals from New Mexico held that the denial by the Assessor did not violate those rights and the Supreme Court of New Mexico refused to review that decision and the case is now before this Court on appeal.

The facts of the case can be briefly stated.

New Mexico Constitution authorizes a veteran's property tax exemption in the amount of $2,000 and that exemption is implemented through New Mexico Statute 737-5, which is the statute involved in this case.

In order to quality for the exemption, the statute requires that the Claimant actually be a veteran.

Secondly, that the veteran be a bona fide resident at the time of claiming the exemption, and, thirdly, that the veteran had served on active duty for 90 days during a period of armed conflict.

There is no question about Appellant Hooper meeting those qualifications and those are not an issue in this case.

However, this statute goes on to add another durational type residential requirement which requires that a Vietnam-era veteran claiming the exemption must have been a resident of the state prior to May 8, 1976 in order to qualify for the exemption.

And, it is the validity of this additional residency requirement that is in issue in this case.

The Appellants believe this case is controlled by Zobel v. Williams and under that case the residency requirement is invalid.

Byron R. White:

I take it the law doesn't require that the person be a resident of New Mexico at some point during his service.

Alvin D. Hooper:

No, Your Honor, and that is one of the main reasons I contend this statute has no the residency requirement has not rational basis.

There is no coincidence of military service and residence required.

Like Zobel, this case involves permanent and retrospective classifications of residents in which the newer arriving residents are never able to achieve equality with the earlier arriving residents.

Now, only two alleged purposes have been set forth by the state and by the Assessor which were accepted by the Court below as purposes for this statute.

One of those purposes is to express gratitude and to reward New Mexico's veterans and to ease their return to civilian life at the end of their military service.

However, this statute has a problem in that regard.

If New Mexico's intent was to reward veterans who were residents at the time the exemption was given, then they have failed to do that.

The statute is under-inclusive because it did not include bona fide resident veterans such as Appellant and all other residents who had moved to the state since May 8, 1976.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Hooper, in your view, would the statute be valid if it were limited in granting the exemption only to veterans who were inducted while they were living in New Mexico and returned or discharged to New Mexico?

Alvin D. Hooper:

That is certainly a very substantial factor which is not present in this case.

However--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Would it be valid though in your view if it were so limited?

Alvin D. Hooper:

--I do not believe it would be for this reason.

Service in the military is really in the national interest and a veteran has served New Mexico whether or not he entered the service from New Mexico.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, there were a couple of cases, weren't there, from New York which had to do with a statute much like that and I guess this Court affirmed at least one of those cases.