Cabell v. Chavez-Salido

RESPONDENT: Chavez-Salido
LOCATION: Residence of Fitzgerald

DOCKET NO.: 80-990
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)

CITATION: 454 US 432 (1982)
ARGUED: Nov 03, 1981
DECIDED: Jan 12, 1982

Mary S. Burdick - on behalf of the Appellees
William F. Stewart - on behalf of the Appellants

Facts of the case


Media for Cabell v. Chavez-Salido

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 03, 1981 in Cabell v. Chavez-Salido

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 12, 1982 in Cabell v. Chavez-Salido

Byron R. White:

The other case 80-990, Cabell against Chavez-Salido is here on appeal for the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

The case arose because under California law, residents are disqualified from being peace officers.

Petitioners sought to become a probation officer and brought this case when he was rejected because he was not a citizen.

The District Court held that the United States constitution required California to hire aliens as well citizens to enforce its laws.

We noted probable jurisdiction and now reversed.

Under our prior cases, the state may require citizenship as a prerequisite to holding state elective office as well as important non-elective positions in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

We have held the school teachers are in this category.

We now hold that non-citizens maybe excluded form those positions, the occupants of which symbolize and exercise the sovereign’s coercive powers over its citizens and others within its jurisdiction.

Probation officers are in this category.

We have filed an opinion to this effect. Justice Blackmun has filed a dissenting opinion which he will announce.

Harry A. Blackmun:

As Justice White has indicated, I have filed a dissenting opinion and joined in it by Justice Brennan, Justice Marshall and Justice Stevens.

The appellees here are three, not one.

Each of them is an American educated, Spanish speaking lawful resident of Los Angeles County, California.

Each of them holds a college degree from an American university and one of them holds a Master's degree.

Seven years ago, each had a modest aspiration to become a Los Angeles County deputy probation officer Spanish speaking.

Each was willing to swear loyalty to the State of California and to the United States government and indeed one of them declared his intent to become a citizen.

By competitive examination, two of them and possibly the third clearly demonstrated their fitness for the jobs they desired.

But the appellants denied them those jobs solely, solely because they were not United States citizens.

The court today concludes that the appellees exclusion from their chosen profession is what it calls a necessary consequence of the community’s process of political self-definition.

The Court reaches this conclusion in my view by misstating the standard of review it has long applied to alienage classifications.

It then asserts that a lawfully admitted permanent resident alien is disabled from serving as a deputy probation officer because that job, says the Court, “Goes to the heart of representative government.”

In my view, this decision rewrites the Court’s precedents, it ignores history, it defies common sense and it reinstates the deadening mantle of state parochialism in public employment.

Since the case called Yick Wo versus Hopkins in 1886, 95 years ago, this Court has recognized and honored the right of a lawfully admitted permanent resident alien to work for living in the common occupations of the community.

In Sugarman against Dougall decided in 1973, the Court by an eight-to-one vote expressly refused to exempt public employment positions from that general rule.

In that case, we struck down as facially inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause a New York statute that excluded lawfully admitted aliens from all state civil service jobs offered on the basis of competitive examinations.

Sugarman directed that permanent resident aliens may not be barred as a class from the common public occupations of the community.

Since that case, this Court has consistently held that in each case where the state chooses to discriminate against permanent resident aliens the governmental interest claim to justify the discrimination is to be carefully examined in order to determine whether that interest is legitimate and whether it is substantial, an inquiry must be made whether the means adopted to achieve the goal are necessary and precisely drawn.

Alienage classifications by a state that do not withstand this stringent examination cannot stand.

And applying that stringent standard here, I would hold that on its face the California statue violates the Equal Protection Clause.

When appellees first sought their jobs, the peace office category in California encompassed more than 70 public occupations including such apparently unrelated positions as toll takers and cemetery sextons and fishing game wardens, and furniture and bedding inspectors, and voluntary fire wardens and the like.