178 U.S. 548, 603, Taylor and Marshall v. Beckham (No. 1)

Docket Nº:No. 603
Citation:178 U.S. 548, 20 S.Ct. 890, 44 L.Ed. 1187
Party Name:Taylor and Marshall v. Beckham (No. 1)
Case Date:May 21, 1900
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 548

178 U.S. 548

20 S.Ct. 890, 44 L.Ed. 1187

Taylor and Marshall

v.

Beckham (No. 1)

No. 603

United States Supreme Court

May 21, 1900

Argued April 30, May 1, 1900

ERROR TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

OF THE STATE OF KENTUCKY

Syllabus

By the Constitution and laws of Kentucky, the determination of contests of the election of Governor and Lieutenant Governor is, and for a hundred years has been, committed to the General Assembly of that Commonwealth.

The Court of Appeals of Kentucky decided that the courts had no power to go behind the determination of the General Assembly in such a contest, duly recorded in the journals thereof; that the office of Governor or of Lieutenant Governor was not property in itself, and, moreover, that, under the constitution and laws of Kentucky, such determination being an authorized mode of ascertaining the result of an election for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the persons declared elected to those offices on the face of the returns by the Board of Canvassers only provisionally occupied them because subject to the final determination of the General Assembly on contests duly initiated. Held:

(1) That the judgment of the Court of Appeals to the effect that it was not empowered to revise the determination by the General Assembly adverse to plaintiffs in error in the matter of election to these offices was not a decision against a title, right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution of the United States, and plaintiffs in error could not invoke jurisdiction because of deprivation, under the circumstances, of property or vested rights, without due process of law.

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(2) That the guarantee by the federal Constitution to each of the states of a republican form of government was entrusted for its enforcement to the political department, and could not be availed of, in connection with the Fourteenth Amendment, to give this Court jurisdiction to revise the judgment of the highest court of the state that it could not review the determination of a contested election of Governor and Lieutenant Governor by the tribunal to which that determination was exclusively committed by the state constitution and laws, on the ground of deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States.

This was an action in the nature of quo warranto brought, under the statutes of Kentucky, by J. C. W. Beckham against William S. Taylor and John Marshall, for usurpation of the offices of governor and Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County in that commonwealth.

The petition averred that at a general election held on the 7th of November, 1899, in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, William Goebel was the Democratic candidate for Governor and J. C. W. Beckham was the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and that at said election, William S. Taylor and John Marshall were the Republican candidates for the said offices, respectively; that, after said election, the state Board of election commissioners, whose duty it was to canvass the returns thereof, canvassed the same and determined on the face of the returns that said Taylor and said Marshall were elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively, for the term commencing December 12, 1899, and accordingly awarded them certificates to that effect, whereupon they were inducted into those offices.

The petition further alleged that, within the time allowed by law, said William Goebel and J. C. W. Beckham gave written notices to Taylor and Marshall that they would each contest the said election on numerous grounds set out at large in the respective notices; that said notices of contest were duly served on said Taylor and Marshall, filed before each house of the General Assembly, and entered at large on the journals thereof; that thereafter Boards of contests were duly selected by each house of the General Assembly, and sworn to try said contests as required by law; that at the time appointed for

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the hearing, the said Taylor and Marshall appeared, and each filed defenses and counternotices, and the evidence of contestants and contestees was heard by the Boards from January 15, 1900, until January 29, 1900, inclusive, and upon January 30, 1900, said contests were submitted without argument to the Boards for decision.

That thereafter, the Boards, having considered the matters of law and fact involved in the contests, did each separately decide the contest submitted to it, and made out in writing its decision, and reported the same to each house of the General Assembly for action thereon.

That in the contest for Governor, the Board determined, and so reported to each house of the General Assembly, that William Goebel had received the highest number of legal votes cast for Governor at the election held on November 7, 1899, and that he was duly elected Governor for the term beginning December 12, 1899, and that in the contest for Lieutenant Governor, the Board determined and so reported that the contestant Beckham had received the highest number of legal votes cast at said election, and was duly elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor for said term.

The petition also alleged that the reports and decisions of the Contest Boards were thereafter duly adopted and approved by both houses of the General Assembly in separate and in joint sessions; that there were present in the house of representatives at said time 56 members and in the senate 19 members, which was a quorum of each house, and that there were present 75 members in joint session, and that the General Assembly did then and there decide and declare that William Goebel and J. C. W. Beckham had each received the highest number of legal votes cast at said election for the offices of, and were duly elected, Governor and Lieutenant Governor as aforesaid. The journals of both houses of the General Assembly showing the proceedings and facts aforesaid were referred to and made part of the petition, and attested copies thereof filed therewith.

It was further averred that, after the determination of said contest by the General Assembly, the said William Goebel and

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J. C. W. Beckham were duly sworn and inducted into the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the commonwealth and at once entered upon the discharge of their respective duties. That thereafter, on the third of February, 1900, William Goebel died, and by law said Beckham was required to discharge the duties of the office of Governor, and accordingly on that day he took the oath prescribed by law, and immediately entered on the discharge of the duties of said office.

It was further alleged that the powers of Taylor as Governor and of Marshall as Lieutenant Governor immediately ceased on the determination of the contest by the General Assembly, but that, notwithstanding the premises, the said Taylor and Marshall had usurped the said offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and had refused to surrender the records, archives, journals, and papers pertaining to the office of Governor, and the possession of the executive offices in the capitol in the City of Frankfort.

The prayer of the petition was

that the defendant, William S. Taylor, be adjudged to have usurped the office of Governor of this commonwealth, and that he be deprived thereof by the judgment of this court; that this plaintiff be adjudged entitled to the said office and be placed in full possession of said office of Governor, the executive offices provided by the commonwealth for the use of the Governor, and that all the records, archives, books, papers, journals, and all other things pertaining to the said office be surrendered and delivered to this plaintiff by the said Taylor, and that the said Taylor be enjoined and restrained from further exercising or attempting to exercise the office of Governor of this commonwealth; that the said John Marshall be adjudged to have usurped the office of Lieutenant Governor of the commonwealth, and that he be deprived thereof, and declared not entitled to the same by the judgment of this Court, and enjoined from assuming to act as such Lieutenant Governor; that plaintiff, Beckham, be adjudged the lawful incumbent of said office; and, finally, the plaintiff prays for his costs in this behalf expended, and for all proper relief.

Defendants Taylor and Marshall filed answers and amended

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answers and counterclaims, denying any valid proceedings in contest, and alleging in substance that the action of the Boards of contests and of the General Assembly in the contests was the result of a conspiracy entered into by the members of the Boards and the members of the General Assembly to wrongfully and unlawfully deprive contestees of their offices; that in the execution of this design, the members of said Boards were fraudulently selected, and not fairly drawn by lot, as required by law, and that a majority of those selected were persons whose political beliefs and feelings, inclinations, and desires on the subject of the contests were known in advance. That the entries on the journals of the General Assembly were false and fraudulent and made in pursuance of said conspiracy, and that the pretended decisions were fraudulent and utterly void. That the senate lacked a quorum at the time of the pretended adoption of the Contest Boards' reports, and that defendant, Taylor, as Governor, on January 31, 1900, refused to permit the members of the General Assembly to meet as the General Assembly at Frankfort because he had previously adjourned the General Assembly to meet on February 6 at London, in Laurel County.

The notices of contest were averred to have been exactly alike, mutatis mutandis, and the notice in respect of the office of Governor was set out as given in the...

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