FOLEY V. CONNELIE, 435 U. S. 291 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Foley v. Connelie

No. 76-839

Argued November 8, 1977

Decided March 22, 1978

435 U.S. 291


New York statute limiting appointment of members of state police force to citizens of the United States held not to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 435 U. S. 294-300.

(a) Citizenship may be a relevant qualification for fulfilling those "important nonelective . . . positions" held by "officers who participate directly in the formulation, execution, or review of broad public policy," Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U. S. 634, 413 U. S. 647. Strict equal protection scrutiny is not required to justify classifications applicable to such positions; a State need only show some rational relationship between the interest sought to be protected and the limiting classification. In deciding what level of scrutiny is to be applied, each position in question must be examined to determine whether it involves discretionary decisionmaking, or execution of policy, which substantially affects members of the political community. Pp. 435 U. S. 294-297.

(b) Police officials are clothed with authority to exercise an almost infinite variety of discretionary powers, calling for a very high degree of judgment and discretion, the exercise of which can seriously affect individuals. Police officers fall within the category of "important noneglective . . . officers who participate directly in the . . . execution . . . of broad public policy." Dougall, supra at 413 U. S. 647 (emphasis added). In the enforcement and execution of the laws, the police function is one where citizenship bears a rational relationship to the special demands of the particular position, and a State may therefore confine the performance of this important public responsibility to those who are citizens. Pp. 435 U. S. 297-300.

419 F.Supp. 889, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 435 U. S. 300. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 435 U. S. 300. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 435 U. S. 302. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 435 U. S. 307.

Page 435 U. S. 292

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