Roam if You Want to, Then Apply to Uncle Sam

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A Kentucky woman cannot sue the government over its use of geographic restrictions when filling jobs, a federal judge ruled.
     Malla Pollack, of Paducah, Ky., sued in 2009 after the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts rejected her application for an attorney-adviser position because she lived outside the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
     The agency had specified in its job announcement that the position was open only to those in the area, but Pollack claimed the geographical limits violated her constitutional right to travel.
     In August 2011, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity and failure to state a claim.
     The D.C. Circuit then found that the office was not immune, leading Judge Jackson to resolve the merits on remand.
     “The court finds that the [Administrative Office’s] decision to limit the geographic area of consideration for certain of its job vacancies did not offend the Constitution,” Jackson wrote Tuesday. The office’s “action did not prevent, deter, impede, burden or penalize travel by the plaintiff to or from Kentucky, the District of Columbia, or anywhere else.”
     Pollack argued that the geographical limitations of the job opening violated her constitutional right to travel as part of the privileges and immunities clause of the Fifth Amendment, and that her right to travel includes “the right to be given equal consideration for possible employment by the federal government in localities to which she desires to relocate.”
     She urged the court to analyze her claim “pursuant to other constitutional-right-to-travel cases.”
     Jackson rejected her claims, noting that “restricting the pool of applicants for a federal position to residents of nearby states does not violate any right found in the constitution.”
     Pollack is “is free to relocate to the area,” and that her “right to relocate to the Washington metropolitan area is different from the right to be considered for particular AO jobs before she moves to Washington,” the judge added (emphasis in original).
     Pollack also cited violations of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, claiming that the geographical restrictions violated a fundamental, constitutional right.
     But Jackson said the plaintiff failed establish the necessary predicate in that regard.
     “The AO’s geographic limitation in its job announcement does not actually deter travel,” the 21-page opinion states. “It does not impede or hinder anyone from making the trip to Washington; nor does it discourage visitors or new residents by suggesting that they would be unwelcome to subject to onerous requirement when they got there. Further, the limitation’s primary objective is not to impede travel but to reduce administrative costs in reviewing applications.”

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