112 F.2d 29 (D.D.C. 1940), 7323, Sevilla v. Elizalde

Docket Nº:7323.
Citation:112 F.2d 29
Party Name:SEVILLA v. ELIZALDE.
Case Date:April 15, 1940
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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112 F.2d 29 (D.D.C. 1940)

SEVILLA

v.

ELIZALDE.

No. 7323.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia.

April 15, 1940

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H. L. McCormick and Clair L. Stout, both of Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Harry B. Hawes, Raymond A. Walsh, and Carl L. Ristine, all of Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Before STEPHENS, EDGERTON, and RUTLEDGE, Associate Justices.

STEPHENS, Associate Justice.

In this case the appellant, suing as a citizen of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands, sought a determination in equity by the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia that the appellee does not possess the qualifications requisite to holding the office of Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth to the United States; and the appellant sought an injunction restraining the appellee from exercising the powers of the office mentioned. The trial court, upon a motion of the appellee, dismissed the complaint upon the grounds that it raised a political question over which the court had no jurisdiction, that it showed insufficient interest in the plaintiff to warrant equitable intervention, and that it stated no controversy between the parties. From the order of dismissal this appeal was taken.

As a foundation for the relief sought the appellant's complaint alleged that, under the statute by virtue of which the Commonwealth came into existence-- the Independence Act of March 24, 1934 (48 Stat. 456), 48 U.S.C.A. 1231 et seq., under the Constitution of the Commonwealth and of the Ordinance appended thereto, and under 'Chapter 390, Section 4, 48 Stat. 879,' 48 U.S.C.A. 1091, the Resident Commissioner to the United States must be a bona fide elector of the Commonwealth, must owe allegiance to the United States, be more than thirty years of age, able to read and write the English language, and must be appointed

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by the President of the Commonwealth with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, a body created by the Constitution. 1 The complaint charged that the appellee does not possess the qualifications mentioned and in particular that the Commission on Appointments had not given its consent to his appointment. Therefore, it was asserted, the exercise by the appellee of the powers or the enjoyment of the privileges or immunities of the office in question would be a usurpation and an encroachment upon the right of the citizens of the Commonwealth to be represented by a Resident Commissioner possessing the requisite qualifications. And it was further charged that at the time of the commencement of the action the appellee was purporting to be the Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth to the United States, and it was alleged that, unless it was judicially determined that he had not the lawful right to hold and exercise the office of Resident Commissioner, the appellee would, upon the convening of the United States Congress in January of 1939, attempt to take a seat in the House of Representatives, to participate in the debates of the House, and to enjoy the privileges and immunities ordinarily attaching to the office of a member of the House

The Independence Act provides, in paragraph 5 of Section 7:

'(5) The government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands shall provide for the selection of a Resident Commissioner to the United States, and shall fix his term of office. He shall be the representative of the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands and shall be entitled to official recognition

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as such by all departments upon presentation to the President of credentials signed by the Chief Executive of said government. He shall have a seat in the House of Representatives of the United States, with the right of debate, but without the right of voting. His salary and expenses shall be fixed and paid by the government of the Philippine Islands . . . ' (48 Stat. 462)

And the Ordinance appended to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines provides, in Section 2:

'Sec. 2. Pending the final and complete withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines, there shall be a Resident Commissioner of the Philippines to the United States who shall be appointed by the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with the consent of the Commission on Appointments. The powers and duties of the Resident Commissioner shall be as provided in section seven, paragraph five of Public Act Numbered One hundred and twenty-seven of the Congress of the United States, approved March twenty-four, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, together with such other duties as the National Assembly may determine. The qualifications, compensation, and expenses of the Resident Commissioner shall be fixed by law. ' (Ordinance Appended to the Constitution of the Philippines (Manila Bureau of Printing, 1935), p. 32)

The theory of the appellant's complaint is that since under Newman v. United States ex rel. Frizzell, 1915, 238 U.S. 537, 35 S.Ct. 881, 59 L.Ed. 1446, an action at law, in quo warranto, against the putative incumbent of a public office, may not be maintained in the District of Columbia, and since--as the appellant contends-- the Congress has no power, the appellee not being a member of Congress, to judge of his qualifications, it necessarily follows that there is a remedy, in equity, to determine whether or not the appellee possesses the qualifications legally requisite to the office of Resident Commissioner, and to oust him from office if the determination is in the negative.

But we think that the appellant's theory overlooks the proposition that 'in order to entitle the party to the remedy, a case must be presented appropriate for the exercise of judicial power; the rights in danger . . . must be rights of persons or property, not merely political rights, which do not belong to the jurisdiction of a court, either in law or equity. ' State of Georgia v. Stanton, 1867, 6 Wall. 50, 76, 18 L.Ed. 721. We think that the trial court properly dismissed the complaint upon the ground that it presented a political, not a judicial, question and one therefore of which the court had no jurisdiction. The other grounds of dismissal it is not necessary to discuss.

Courts have no jurisdiction to decide political questions. These are such as have been entrusted by the sovereign for decision to the so-called political departments of government, as distinguished from questions which the sovereign has set to be decided in the courts. Even under a government where there is no express constitutional delegation of powers, this limitation upon judicial authority has long been recognized. It was suggested in The Duke of York's Claim to the Crown, 5 Rotuli Par. 375 (House of Lords, 1460), Wambaugh, Cases on Constitutional Law (1915) 1, 3, where, in respect of the claim of the Duke of York, the 'Kyngs Justices' decided that they 'durst not enter into eny communication thereof, for it perteyned to the Lordes of the Kyngs bloede . . . .' 2 And in Nabob of the Carnatic v. East India Company, 1 Ves.Jr. 371

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(1791), 2 Ves.Jr. 56 (1793), in which stems a series of authorities in England (see West Rand Central Gold Mining Company, Ltd. v. The King, (1905) 2 K.B. 391), the distinction between judicial and political power was recognized. See also Penn. v. Lord Baltimore, 1 Ves.Sen. 444 (1750). In the United States as early as Ware v. Hylton, 1796, 3 Dall. 199, 260, 1 L.Ed. 568, it was held 'incompetent to the examination and decision of a Court of Justice' to determine whether a treaty between England and the United States had been broken by one of the parties to it. And from that day until the present time, the decisions in the Federal courts recognize and apply this principle of judicial self-limitation in so-called political cases. Thus courts have refused to: Determine whether or not the constitutional guaranty to every state of a republican form of government has been satisfied; 3 or determine the conditions of peace or war; 4 or determine the beginning and end of war; 5 or determine whether or not aliens shall be excluded or expelled; 6 or determine governmental title to or jurisdiction over a territory; 7 or determine the status of

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Indian tribes; 8 or recognize the existence of states or governments; 9 or enforce the provisions of a treaty when the sovereign chooses to disregard them; 10 or determine whether a treaty has been terminated; 11 or inquire into the constitutional powers of representatives of foreign nations. 12 While the boundaries of the field of decision

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which lies outside the authority of the courts are not wholly definite-- this because the question to which department a power has been delegated is often a difficult problem of interpretation 'According as the commission is precise' or 'is inexact' 13 -- it is not necessary in the instant case to attempt to mark out with precision all points on the boundary, because the instant case clearly falls well within the field of political, rather than judicial action. The Resident Commissioner partakes in part of the characteristics of a diplomatic representative of a foreign power and in part of those of a delegate from a territory. And the determination of the qualifications of such officers lies obviously outside judicial authority and within the field of political action

As will have been noted from provisions of the Independence Act which have been set out above, the Resident Commissioner 'shall be the representative of the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands and shall be entitled to official recognition as such by all departments upon presentation to the President of credentials signed by the Chief Executive of said government . . . . His salary and expenses shall be fixed...

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