Jensen, v. Quaring

LOCATION: New Mexico State Police Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 83-1944
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 472 US 478 (1985)
ARGUED: Jan 07, 1985
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1985

Ruth Anne E. Galter - on behalf of the petitioners
Thomas C. Lansworth - on behalf of the respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Jensen, v. Quaring

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 07, 1985 in Jensen, v. Quaring

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Jensen against Quaring.

Ms. Galter, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Ruth Anne E. Galter:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case is here on the State of Nebraska's petition for certiorari to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nebraska contends that the lower court erred in mandating an exception solely on religious grounds to Nebraska's requirement that a photograph appear on the respondent's driver's license.

The lower court found two compelling interests in ready and instantaneous identification of licensed drivers as well as the security of financial transactions.

It nevertheless held that the photograph requirement as applied to Mrs. Quaring was not the least restrictive alternative to accomplish the state's objectives.

We submit that the lower court erred in two respects.

First, we submit that it failed to apply a qualitative and comparative analysis to the interests of the state and Mrs. Quaring.

Secondly, we contend that it incorrectly applied the least restrictive alternative test, in that the lower court's conclusion rests on the faulty premise that a few exceptions do not undermine the state's legislative purpose.

In short, we are asking the Court to clarify the holdings in Thomas versus Review Board and in Sherbert versus Verner to provide a qualitative analysis of the degree of abridgement of religious freedom in terms of its actual interference with an essential practice of religion.

We feel this is significant for the reason that the lower court specifically found that there was no coercion of action which is contrary to a free exercise claim.

The first question in any free exercise analysis is, is there a burden.

Our focus is how much of a burden exists upon Mrs. Quaring.

In that analysis, we must look to the degree of infringement or, if you will, the centrality of her belief and the degree which the state's regulation infringes upon that central core belief.

We have also evaluated it in terms of the right to drive.

As set forth in our brief, we have indicated that we do not feel that Mrs. Quaring's interest in the right to a driver's license is on the same level as those interests presented in Thomas versus Review Board and in Sherbert.

In essence, the interest or the benefits at issue in those cases were unemployment compensation benefits to which the individuals were otherwise entitled.

We feel that the right to a driver's license is a highly regulated state activity.

It is subject always to the police power of the state, subject always to reasonable regulations which relate to its purpose.

In other words, we may suspend or revoke for repeated infractions.

We may impose restrictions in terms of financial responsibility.

It is subject to a whole host of state regulation.

Warren E. Burger:

Age, is that not another factor?

Ruth Anne E. Galter:


Warren E. Burger:


Ruth Anne E. Galter:

Yes, Your Honor, age is a factor.

Warren E. Burger:

What are the limits in Nebraska?

Ruth Anne E. Galter:

At the age of 16 you may obtain a regular driver's license.

Warren E. Burger:

On the other end, is there a limit?

Ruth Anne E. Galter:

You must demonstrate a proficiency and knowledge of the rules of the road, traffic regulations.