Year: 2012 (Date of Decision: 6 January 2012)
Forum, Country: Supreme Court; United States of America
Standards, Rights: Non-discrimination and equal protection of the law; Right to health; Right to social security; Migrants
Summary Background: This case involves a legislative decision of the State of Massachusetts that denied State subsidies (provided under the Commonwealth Care Health Insurance Program) to lawful non-citizen immigrants living in the United States for less than five years. Plaintiffs sought a declaration from the Court that this exclusion from the program was unconstitutional.
Holding: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, applying strict scrutiny, decided that excluding the said category of lawful, non-citizen immigrants from the aforementioned health insurance program was in violation of the equal protection clause of the Massachusetts Constitution. It was held that the exclusively fiscal concerns, which had motivated the exclusion could never constitute a compelling government interest in a strict scrutiny review [pp. 237-242]. Further, the Court found that the State had made no attempt to meet the rigorous procedural requirements designed to ensure that the legislation was narrowly tailored to further a compelling interest [pp. 242-249]. “Narrow tailoring requires ‘serious, good faith consideration’ of ‘workable’ nondiscriminatory alternatives that will achieve the Legislature’s goals.” Those requirements were not met in this case [p. 242].
In its conclusion the Court states “[m]inorities rely on the independence of the courts to secure their constitutional rights against incursions of the majority….If the plaintiffs’ right to equal protection of the laws has been violated…then it is our duty to say so” [p. 249].
Additional Comments: Since the case was determined on State constitutional grounds, there could be no further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, so this judgement stands as the final judgement on this aspect of the case.
Link to Full Case: http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/461/461mass232.html