Foley v. Connelie
435 U.S. 291 (1978)

  • Foley was a permanent resident of the US who was trying to become a naturalized US citizen. He applied for a job as a policeman in New York, but was denied.
    • At the time, New York law required that all policemen be US citizens.
  • Foley sued, claiming that the citizenship requirement was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Specifically, the Equal Protection Clause says that “no person shall be denied equal protection under the laws…,” it does not say “citizen.”
  • The US Supreme Court found for New York and found the citizenship requirement to be constitutionally permissible.
    • The US Supreme Court found that while strict scrutiny is the general level of judicial review for cases in which non-citizens are making claims based on equal protection (aka alienage classifications), there is an exception for cases related to self-government and the democratic process.
      • In those cases, the much lower rational basis review is to be used.
      • Basically, a State may deny aliens the right to vote, hold political office, or serve on juries, as long as they can show a rational basis.
    • The Court found that a policeman’s broad powers over citizens was a good enough rational basis to deny non-citizens from the position.
    • The Court noted that there must be some benefits to being a citizen over not being a citizen, otherwise, what’s the point of applying for citizenship?