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Law School Case Brief

In re Griffiths - 413 U.S. 717, 93 S. Ct. 2851 (1973)

Rule:

A state that adopts a suspect classification bears a heavy burden of justification, a burden which, though variously formulated, requires the state to meet certain standards of proof. In order to justify the use of a suspect classification, a state must show that its purpose or interest is both constitutionally permissible and substantial, and that its use of the classification is necessary to the accomplishment of its purpose or the safeguarding of its interest.

Facts:

Appellant married a United States citizen and became a resident of the State of Connecticut. After appellant graduated from law school, she applied for permission to take the State bar examination. The Connecticut Bar Examining Committee denied permission solely on the basis that appellant was not a United States citizen, as required by Conn. Gen. Prac. Book, R. Super. Ct. § 8(1).

Issue:

Did Conn. Gen. Prac. Book, R. Super. Ct. § 8(1), which required that applicants to sit for the state bar examination be a U.S. citizen, violate the equal protection clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV and unconstitutionally discriminate against resident aliens?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

Finding that Rule 8(1) was unconstitutional, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment from the Supreme Court of Connecticut, holding that Rule 8(1) violated the equal protection clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV and unconstitutionally discriminated against resident aliens. The Supreme Court also found that the Committee did not carry its burden of showing that the classification established by Rule 8(1) was necessary to promote or safeguard the State's interest in maintaining the high professional standards of those admitted to the practice of law. The Committee failed to show the relevance of citizenship to any likelihood that a lawyer would fail to faithfully protect the interest of his clients.

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