262 U.S. 447 (1923), 24, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon

Docket Nº:No. 24, Original, and No. 962
Citation:262 U.S. 447, 43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078
Party Name:Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon
Case Date:June 04, 1923
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 447

262 U.S. 447 (1923)

43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

v.

Mellon

No. 24, Original, and No. 962

United States Supreme Court

June 4, 1923

Argued May 3, 4, 1923

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS

OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

1. This Court has no jurisdiction of an original proceeding by a State if the matter is not of justiciable character. P. 480.

2. The Act of November 23, 1921, c. 135, 42 Stat. 224, called the "Maternity Act," authorizes appropriations, to be apportioned among such of the States as shall accept and comply with its provisions, for the purpose of cooperating with them to reduce maternal and infant mortality and to protect the health of mothers and infants; it provides for its administration by a federal bureau in cooperation with state agencies, which are to make such reports of their operations and expenditures as the bureau may prescribe, and that, whenever the bureau shall determine that funds have not been properly expended by any State, payments to that State may be withheld. In a suit brought in this Court by a State, against the federal officials charged with the administration of the act, who were citizens of other States, to enjoin them from enforcing it, wherein the plaintiff averred that the act is unconstitutional, in that its purpose is to induce the States to yield sovereign rights reserved by them and not granted the Federal government under the Constitution, and that the burden of the appropriations falls unequally upon the several States, held, that, as the statute does not require the plaintiff to do or yield anything, and as no burden is imposed by it other than that of taxation, which falls not on the State but on her inhabitants, who are within the federal, as well as the state, taxing power, the complaint resolves down to the naked contention that Congress has usurped reserved powers of the States by the mere enactment of the statute, though nothing has been, or is to be, done under it

Page 448

without their consent -- an abstract question of political power, not a matter of judicial cognizance. P. 482.

3. A State may not, as parens patriae, institute judicial proceeding to protect her citizen (who are no less citizens of the United States), from the operation of a federal statute upon the ground that, as applied to them, it is unconstitutional. P. 485.

4. A suit by an individual, as a past and future federal taxpayer, to restrain the enforcement of an act of Congress authorizing appropriations of public money, upon the ground that the act is invalid, cannot be entertained in equity. P. 486.

5. To invoke the judicial power to disregard a statute as unconstitutional, the party who assails it must show not only that the statute is invalid, but that he has sustained, or is immediately in danger of sustaining, some direct injury as a result of its enforcement, and not merely that he suffers in some indefinite way in common with people generally. P. 488.

No. 24, Original. Dismissed.

No. 962. 288 F. 252, affirmed.

The first of these cases was an original suit, brought in this Court by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for herself and as representative of her citizens, against the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chief of the Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor, the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, and the United States Commissioner of Education, all of whom were citizens of States other than Massachusetts, and the last three of whom constituted the Board of Maternity and Infant Hygiene created by the above-mentioned act of Congress. The purpose was to enjoin the enforcement of the act. The second case is an appeal from a decree of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, affirming a decree of the Supreme Court of the District, which dismissed a bill brought by the appellant, for the same purpose, against the same defendants.

Page 478

SUTHERLAND, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases were argued, and will be considered and disposed of, together. The first is an original suit in this Court. The other was brought in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. That court dismissed the bill, and its decree was affirmed by the District Court of Appeals. Thereupon the case was brought here by appeal.

Page 479

Both cases challenge the constitutionality of the Act of November 23, 1921, c. 135, 42 Stat 224, commonly called the Maternity Act. Briefly, it provides for an initial appropriation and thereafter annual appropriations for a period of five years, to be apportioned among such of the several States as shall accept and comply with its provisions, for the purpose of cooperating with them to reduce maternal and infant mortality and protect the health of mothers and infants. It creates a bureau to administer the act in cooperation with state agencies, which are required to make such reports concerning their operations and expenditures as may be prescribed by the federal bureau. Whenever that bureau shall determine that funds have not been properly expended in respect of any State, payments may be withheld.

It is asserted that these appropriations are for purposes not national, but local to the States, and, together with numerous similar appropriations, constitute an effective means of inducing the States to yield a portion of their sovereign rights. It is further alleged that the burden of the appropriations provided by this act and similar legislation falls unequally upon the several States, and rests largely upon the industrial States, such as Massachusetts; that the act is a usurpation of power not granted to Congress by the Constitution -- an attempted exercise of the power of local self-government reserved to the States by the Tenth Amendment, and that the defendants are proceeding to carry the act into operation. In the Massachusetts case, it is alleged that the plaintiff's rights and powers as a sovereign State and the rights of its citizens have been invaded and usurped by these expenditures and acts, and that, although the State has not accepted the act, its constitutional rights are infringed by the passage thereof and the imposition upon the State of an illegal and unconstitutional option either to yield to the Federal Government a part of its reserved rights or

Page 480

lose the share which it would otherwise be entitled to receive of the moneys appropriated. In the Frothingham case, plaintiff alleges that the effect of the statute will be to take her property, under the guise of taxation, without due process of law.

We have reached the conclusion that the cases must be disposed of for want of jurisdiction without considering the merits of the constitutional questions.

In the first case, the State of Massachusetts presents no justiciable controversy either in its own behalf or as the representative of its citizens. The appellant in the second suit has no such interest in the subject matter, nor is any such injury inflicted or threatened, as will enable her to sue.

First. The State of Massachusetts in its own behalf, in effect complains that the act in question invades the local concerns of the State, and is a usurpation of power, viz: the power of local self-government reserved to the States.

Probably it would be sufficient to point out that the powers of the State are not invaded, since the statute imposes no obligation, but simply extends an option which the State is free to accept or reject. But we do not rest here. Under Article III, § 2, of the Constitution, the judicial power of this Court extends "to controversies between a State and citizens of another State," and the Court has original jurisdiction "in all cases . . . in which a State shall be party." The effect of this is not to confer jurisdiction upon the Court merely because a State is a party, but only where it is a party to a proceeding of judicial cognizance. Proceedings not of a justiciable character are outside the contemplation of the constitutional grant. In Wisconsin v. Pelican Insurance Co., 127 U.S. 265, 289, Mr. Justice Gray, speaking for the Court, said:

As to "controversies between a State and citizens of another State." The object of vesting in the courts of

Page 481

the United States jurisdiction of suits by one State against the citizens [43 S.Ct. 599] of another was to enable such controversies to be determined by a national tribunal, and thereby to avoid the partiality, or suspicion of partiality, which might exist if the plaintiff State were compelled to resort to the courts of the State of which the defendants were citizens. Federalist No. 80; Chief Justice Jay, in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419, 475; Story on the Constitution, §§ 1638, 1682. The grant is...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP