Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman

PETITIONER:Supreme Court of Virginia
LOCATION:Pima County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 87-399
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)

CITATION: 487 US 59 (1988)
ARGUED: Mar 21, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1988

Facts of the case

Myrna Friedman, a resident of Maryland, was hired at a law firm located in the state of Virginia. Virginia law made permanent residency a requirement for admission to the Virginia bar without taking the bar examination. After Friedman’s appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court was turned down, her claim was upheld in federal district court.


Did the Virginia law violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution?

Media for Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 20, 1988 in Supreme Court of Virginia v. Friedman

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 87-399 and in No. 87-416, Supreme Court of Virginia versus Friedman and United States Catholic Conference versus Abortion Rights Mobilization will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, the first case to announce is Supreme Court of Virginia versus Friedman.

This case comes to us on appeal from the United States Court of Appeals from the Fourth Circuit.

Under the applicable rules in Virginia, qualified lawyers admitted to practice in another state may be admitted to the Virginia Bar on motion.

This means that these attorneys may be admitted to the bar without taking the bar examination that Virginia otherwise requires.

The State conditions this type of admission on the showing among other matters that the applicant be a permanent resident of Virginia.

Myrna Friedman had been admitted to the Illinois Bar by examination in 1977 and later was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar by reciprocity.

After living in Virginia for several years, she became an attorney for a company with full-time offices in Vienna, Virginia.

This was in 1986. A short time later, she moved to Maryland with her husband while retaining her legal counsel employment in Virginia.

Because she was not a full-time resident of Virginia, her application to be admitted to the bar on motion was denied.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that this residence requirement violated the privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV of the Constitution.

We agree and we now affirm.

In examining whether a citizenship or residency classification offends privileges and immunities protections, we undertake a well-settled two-step inquiry.

First, we determine whether the activity in which the classification applies is basic to the vitality of the Nation, merits protection and of the privileges of the Immunities Clause.

We answer this question in the affirmative in the present case because our decision in the Supreme Court of New Hampshire versus Piper, the case decided three years ago, established that a nonresident’s right to practice law on terms of substantially equality with residents is a privilege protected by the Clause.

We reject Virginia’s contention so long as an applicant has the alternative of gaining admission to a State’s bar, without regard to residence by passing the bar examination, the State has not discriminated against nonresidents on a matter of fundamental concern.

The second step of the inquiry set out and our precedents recognizes that the disparity of treatment is permissible.

When a state demonstrates that the discrimination against nonresidents bears a close relation to the achievement of substantial state objectives.

As set forth in the opinion we filed today, we conclude that Virginia has failed to make the showing.

We are not persuaded by the State’s argument that the residency requirement is needed to ensure that attorney submitted on motion will be as familiar with local law and has committed to the Virginia Bar as our attorney submitted upon examination.

We acknowledge that the bar examination is one method of assuring that the admitted attorney has a stake in her professional licensure and a concomitant interest in the integrity and standards of the bar.

A bar examination is, we know judicially and from our own experience, is not a casual or lighthearted exercise.

The question, however, is whether lawyers who are admitted in other States and seek admission in Virginia are less likely to respect the bar and further its interests solely because they are nonresidents.

We cannot say this is the case.

The Chief Justices has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Scalia joins.