258 U.S. 126 (1922), 148, Fairchild v. Hughes

Docket Nº:No. 148
Citation:258 U.S. 126, 42 S.Ct. 274, 66 L.Ed. 499
Party Name:Fairchild v. Hughes
Case Date:February 27, 1922
Court:United States Supreme Court

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258 U.S. 126 (1922)

42 S.Ct. 274, 66 L.Ed. 499




No. 148

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 27, 1922

Argued January 23, 1922



1. The general right of a citizen to have the government administered according to law and the public moneys not wasted does not entitle him to institute in the federal courts a suit to secure by indirection a determination whether a statute, if passed, or a constitutional amendment about to be adopted, will be valid. P. 129.

2. Though in form a suit in equity, this is not a case within Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution. P. 129.


Appeal from a decree of the court below affirming a decree of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia which dismissed a bill by which the appellant sought to have the Nineteenth Amendment declared unconstitutional and to enjoin the Secretary of State from proclaiming its ratification and the Attorney General from taking steps to enforce it.

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BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

On July 7, 1920, Charles S. Fairchild, of New York, brought this suit in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia against the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. The prayers of the bill are that "the so-called Suffrage Amendment [the Nineteenth to the federal Constitution] be declared unconstitutional and void;" that the Secretary of State be restrained from issuing any proclamation declaring that it has been ratified, and that the Attorney General be restrained from enforcing it. There is also a prayer for general relief and for an interlocutory injunction. The plaintiff and others on whose behalf he sues are citizens of the United States, taxpayers, and members of the American Constitutional League, a voluntary association which describes itself as engaged in diffusing

knowledge as to the fundamental principles of the American Constitution, and especially that which gives to each state the right to determine for itself the question as to who should exercise the elective franchise therein.

The claim to relief was rested upon the following allegations: the legislatures of 34 of the states have passed resolutions purporting to ratify the Suffrage Amendment, and from one other state the Secretary of the United States has received a certificate to that effect purporting to come from the proper officer. The proposed amendment cannot, for reasons stated, be made a part of the Constitution through ratification by the legislatures, and there are also specific reasons why the resolutions already adopted in several of the states are inoperative. But the Secretary has declared that he is

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without power to examine into the validity of alleged acts of ratification, and that, upon receiving from one additional state the...

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