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Cal. Supreme Court to Hear Residency Requirement Case?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Hillary Clinton raised a few eyebrows when she hopped from the White House to her newly-purchased Chappaqua house in 2000. People don't mind a change of address, but they care when political-hopefuls move to a state without a multi-year residency requirement to run for office.

But what happens in states, like California, that have residency requirements that they don't enforce?

A former Republican candidate for the legislature is asking the state's Supreme Court to hear her California residency requirements challenge to resolve whether the state must enforce its own election laws.

Heidi Fuller ran against Tom Berryhill in the 2010 state Senate primary. She placed fourth. Before Election Day, she filed a lawsuit seeking to remove Berryhill from the ballot he didn't meet California's residency requirements under the state constitution, reports Capitol Weekly.

California Constitution Article 4 states, "A person is ineligible to be a member of the Legislature unless the person is an elector and has been a resident of the legislative district for one year, and a citizen of the United States and a resident of California for three years, immediately preceding the election." That seems clear, except the state hasn't enforced the residency requirement in 30 years.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1973 that the "California residency requirement has the likely effect of handicapping the class of nonresident candidates who would otherwise meet the requirements of the Qualifications Clause." Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld durational residency requirements for candidates in Sununu v. Stark, but the state never resumed enforcing the one-year requirement.

After bouncing around the California court system for two years, Fuller is asking the California Supreme Court to resolve the issue, Ballot Access News reports

We doubt the court would take up the matter before the 2012 elections, since that could potentially disrupt races and outcomes, particularly in newly-drawn districts. Still, it seems like an interesting issue for the court to resolve. Do you think the state justices would favor the California residency requirements for candidates?

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