Foley v. Connelie Case Brief

Why is the case important?

New York State law prohibited non-citizens from being appointed state policemen. The Appellant, Edmund Foley (Appellant), was refused the opportunity to sit for the state police exam on the basis of his alien status.

Facts of the case

“Edmund Foley applied for a position as a New York state trooper. Although Foley was a legally admitted resident alien, state officials refused to permit him to take the examination. New York authorities relied on a statute providing that “”no person shall be appointed to the. . .state police force unless he shall be a citizen of the United States.”””

Question

May a State discriminate between aliens and citizens in comprising its police force?

Answer

Yes, as long as there is a rational basis for such distinction. Appeals Court ruling affirmed.
Chief Justice Warren Burger (J. Burger) wrote for the majority that strict scrutiny in all areas where alien status is used restrictively would obliterate all distinctions between citizens and aliens. J. Burger notes that a State may deny the right to vote, run for office, or sit on juries to non-citizens, as these are at the heart of our political institutions. The police power, as well, is an extension of the political life of the community.
For the same reason that non-citizens do not sit in trial over citizens, the state has an interest in not allowing non-citizens to invade the privacy of citizens and to allow non-citizens to exercise the discretionary powers of police officers against citizens.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed a judgment holding that the challenged law, which excluded aliens from the state police force, was constitutional. The broad powers vested in police officers affected members of the public significantly, and often in the most sensitive areas of life. Police officers very clearly participated directly in the execution of broad public policy. The police function was one where citizenship bore a rational relationship to the special demands of the particular position. Therefore, a state could restrict the performance of this important public responsibility to citizens.

  • Case Brief: 1978
  • Appellant: Foley
  • Appellee: Connelie
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 435 US 291 (1978)
Argued: Nov 8, 1977
Decided: Mar 22, 1978