Bernal v. Fainter
|Bernal v. Fainter|
|Argued March 28, 1984|
Decided May 30, 1984
|Full case name||Bernal v. Fainter, Secretary of State of Texas, et al.|
104 S. Ct. 2312; 81 L. Ed. 2d 175; 1984 U.S. LEXIS 93; 52 U.S.L.W. 4669
|Prior history||Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
|The Texas statute requiring that a notary public be a United States citizen violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.|
|Majority||Marshall, joined by Burger, Brennan, White, Blackmun, Powell, Stevens, O'Connor|
|U.S. Const. amend. XIV|
Bernal v. Fainter, 467 U.S. 216 (1984), is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Equal Protection Clause prohibited the state of Texas from barring noncitizens from applying for commission as a notary public.
The Supreme Court recognized that legal aliens are a suspect class (citing Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971)), and therefore any law applying to legal aliens as a class is subject to strict scrutiny. The Court also recognized a "political function" exception that subjects alienage classification laws to a lower standard of review for "positions intimately related to the process of democratic self-governance." However, the Court held that since the requirements of being a notary are essentially ministerial (that is, without judgment or discretion, either the person fits the statutory requirement to have a document authenticated or they do not), and the only real requirement of a notary was to follow the law, being a notary does not have any special character of citizenship that would require one to necessarily be a citizen. This is unlike, say, being a police officer, where a locality may require police officers to be citizens because they act on behalf of the state and have considerable discretion in how the law is enforced.
The Supreme Court struck down the Texas law, Article 5949(2), that required a notary to be a citizen. The Court also noted that notary commissions are issued by the Texas Secretary of State, who is not required to be a citizen despite holding the "highest appointive position" in Texas.
- Torcaso v. Watkins (1961): religious test to be a notary found unconstitutional
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 467
- Findlaw.Com Text of decision
- Oyez Bernal v Fainter 467 U.S. 216 (1984)
- Justia: Bernal v. Fainter 467 U.S. 216 (1984)