Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper

PETITIONER: Supreme Court of New Hampshire
LOCATION: New Hampshire Supreme Court

DOCKET NO.: 83-1466
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 470 US 274 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 31, 1984
DECIDED: Mar 04, 1985
GRANTED: Apr 23, 1984

Jon Meyer - on behalf of the Appellee
Martin L. Gross - on behalf of the Appellant

Facts of the case

Kathryn Piper was a resident of Lower Waterford, Vermont, which is about 400 yards away from the New Hampshire border. In 1979, she applied to take the 1980 New Hampshire Bar Examination and submitted her statement of intent to become a New Hampshire resident. Piper passed the New Hampshire Bar and was informed she would have to establish a home address in New Hampshire before being sworn in. In May 1980, Piper requested a dispensation from the residency requirement due to special circumstances and the fact that she met all of the other requirements. When her request was denied, she formally petitioned the New Hampshire Supreme Court to become a member of the bar. The New Hampshire Supreme Court denied her petition on December 31, 1980.

On March 22, 1982, Piper sued the New Hampshire Supreme Court in district court and argued that the residency requirement violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court granted Piper’s motion for summary judgment and found that the requirement violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause. The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed.


Does the residency requirement for admission to the New Hampshire Bar violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution?

Media for Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1984 in Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Supreme Court of New Hampshire against Piper.

I think you may proceed whenever you are ready, Mr. Gross.

Martin I. Gross:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, in a recent swearing in ceremony, in several, as a matter of fact, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has admonished new admittees that in the court's view New Hampshire lawyers should not just be merchants of law, but instead should be servants of justice.

The residency requirement involved in this case is one of the ways the New Hampshire court has chosen to reinforce the court's aspirations for New Hampshire lawyers as part of a system for administering justice in the state.

The New Hampshire court has concluded that requiring residency at the time of admission assists in assuring that New Hampshire lawyers will be available to perform obligations that the court has imposed on lawyers in the course of defining the nature and characteristics of the proper practice of law in the state.

At stake in this case, we submit, is whether the New Hampshire court can continue to reinforce its aspirations for New Hampshire lawyers through use of a simple residency requirement that New Hampshire lawyers be residents of New Hampshire at the time they take the oath of admission.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But they may be nonresidents the next day and still practice in New Hampshire?

Martin I. Gross:

We suggest not, having acted in good faith with the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court requires residency at the time of administering the oath, and in order to become a resident, one has to undertake to the court that one has become a resident with the indefinite intention of remaining.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Suppose one has been born, and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire, at that time becomes a member of the New Hampshire bar, and the next day moves over to Vermont.

May he continue to practice law in New Hampshire?

Martin I. Gross:

Yes, and that, of course... therein lies one of the great challenges of our brethren in this case, because they seem to say that because New Hampshire does not revoke licenses if someone moves away, that somehow there is something wrong with this requirement.

If I may just express to the Court what the New Hampshire court's reasons are for that requirement, then I would like to address why the revocation argument doesn't hold any water.

I think the facts bearing on the New Hampshire Supreme Court's reasons are extremely important.

We have no need to guess in this case.

Those reasons are embodied in an affidavit of New Hampshire Chief Justice King.

Those reasons appear at the Joint Appendix on Page 32, and the case comes here on summary judgment.

There are no findings contrary to Justice King's affidavit, and on this record I don't think there is any room to doubt that Justice King accurately states what the New Hampshire court is doing with the residency requirement.

And what it is doing is as follows.

As the affidavit recites, the New Hampshire court regards residency as establishing New Hampshire as the principal place of physical residence for the indefinite future.

So residency at the time of admission is the New Hampshire court's chosen proxy for promoting sustained physical presence in the New Hampshire community.

Warren E. Burger:

What is the requirement for taking the examination in the first instance?

Is it either residence or a statement of intent to become a resident?

Martin I. Gross:

Yes, precisely.

Warren E. Burger:

Either one will do?

Martin I. Gross:

Either one will do.

And the only time that one has to become a resident is at the moment before the oath of admission is administered.

That is the time that the admission requirement bites.

And it is at that time that we say that it has proven effective to accomplish the goals that the New Hampshire court wishes to carry out.

Why is it important--