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Sugarman v. Dougall

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Brief Fact Summary. A New York statute excluded aliens from all government civil service jobs filled by competitive examination. It did not apply to higher office positions, however. The Appellees, Dougall and others (Appellees), challenged the constitutionality of the statute.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Classifications made on the basis of alienage call for close judicial scrutiny.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The Supreme Court has stated that the Framers of the Constitution intended the States to keep for themselves, as provided in the Tenth Amendment, the power to regulate elections, and that each State has the power to prescribe the qualifications of its officers and the manner in which they shall be chosen.

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Facts. A New York statute excluded aliens from all government civil service jobs filled by competitive examination. It did not apply to higher office positions, however, such as elected offices, offices filled by the governor or offices filled by legislative appointment. The purpose of the statute was to retain civil servants free of competing obligations to other powers. The underlying premise for the statute was that civil servants participate in the formation and execution of government policy and that divided loyalty might impair a civil servant’s judgment or the public’s confidence in her judgment. Appellees challenged the constitutionality of the statute.

Issue. Was New York’s flat statutory prohibition against the employment of aliens in its competitive civil servant jobs unconstitutional?

Held. Yes. The judgment of the District Court is affirmed.
Justice Harry Blackmun (J. Blackmun) stated that a flat ban on the employment of aliens in positions that have little or no relationship to the State’s legitimate interest cannot withstand close judicial scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
The Appellant, the state of New York’s (Appellant), justifications prove too much and too little. The State’s prohibition applies to jobs, e.g., sanitation workers, typists, where loyalty to the State isn’t essential. On the other hand, the statute does not apply to jobs for which loyalty to the State is indispensable. Aliens are a discrete insular minority, therefore, a classification based on alienage commands a closer means to ends fit then the New York statute provides.

Dissent. Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist) stated the principal purpose of those who drafted and adopted the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) was to prohibit the States from invidiously discriminating on the basis of race. There is no evidence to suggest that it was the intent of the Framers to render alienage a suspect classification.

Discussion. This case calls into question whether there was adequate justification for subjecting alienage classifications for close scrutiny. Can it be argued that alienage classifications are so eligible, because aliens, like blacks and women, have suffered a long history of discrimination in the United States of Ame

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