Sosna v. Iowa

LOCATION:Commissioner’s Office

DOCKET NO.: 73-762
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 419 US 393 (1975)
ARGUED: Oct 17, 1974
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1975

Elizabeth A. Nolan – for appellees
James H. Reynolds – for appellant

Facts of the case


Media for Sosna v. Iowa

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 17, 1974 in Sosna v. Iowa

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 14, 1975 in Sosna v. Iowa

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in No. 73-762, Sosna against Iowa, and the judgment and opinion of the Court in 73-1313, ITT against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union will each be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

In Sosna, the State of Iowa enacted a statute under which only persons who have resided in the state for one year may file a petition for divorce in Iowa’s courts.

Appellant Sosna who had resided in Iowa for only a month unsuccessfully sought to obtain a divorce in the Iowa state court and thereafter she filed a class action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa challenging the constitutionality of the Iowa residency requirement for divorce.

A three-judge District Court was convened and upheld this constitutionality of the statute.

We noted probable jurisdiction and by the time we heard oral argument, appellant Sosna had resided in Iowa for the requisite one year period.

And we were informed by counsel that she had also obtained a divorce in another state.

But since appellant Sosna brought a properly certified class action, we hold the case is not moot.

While her dispute has been resolved, she represents a class with a continuing controversy that would escape review by any single challenger.

We are satisfied that appellant adequately represents the members of the class and at the merits of her case are therefore properly before us.

On the merits we hold that the Iowa statute is constitutional.

It furthers the state’s quite legitimate interest in protecting its decrees against collateral attack and assures that those persons seeking to invoke the powers of the state courts have a reasonable attachment to the state.

We therefore affirm the judgment of the District Court.

Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion.

Mr. Justice Marshall joined by Mr. Justice Brennan has also filed a dissenting opinion.