307 U.S. 433 (1939), 7, Coleman v. Miller

Docket Nº:No. 7
Citation:307 U.S. 433, 59 S.Ct. 972, 83 L.Ed. 1385
Party Name:Coleman v. Miller
Case Date:June 05, 1939
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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307 U.S. 433 (1939)

59 S.Ct. 972, 83 L.Ed. 1385

Coleman

v.

Miller

No. 7

United States Supreme Court

June 5, 1939

Argued October 10, 1938

Reargued April 17, 18, 1939

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF KANSAS

Syllabus

1. Upon submission of a resolution for ratification of a proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution, known as the Child Labor Amendment, twenty of the forty senators of the State of Kansas voted in favor of its adoption and twenty voted against it. The Lieutenant Governor, the presiding officer of the Senate, then cast his vote in favor of the resolution, and later it was adopted by the other house of the legislature on a vote of a majority of its members. The twenty senators who had voted against ratification, challenging the right of the Lieutenant Governor to cast the deciding vote in the Senate, and alleging that the proposed amendment had lost its vitality because of previous rejection by Kansas and other States and failure of ratification within a reasonable time, sought a writ of mandamus to compel the Secretary of the Senate to erase an endorsement on the resolution, to the effect that it had been adopted by the Senate, and to endorse thereon the words "was not passed," and to restrain the officers of the Senate and House of Representatives from signing the resolution and the Secretary of Kansas from authenticating it and delivering it to the Governor. The State entered its appearance, and the State Supreme Court entertained the action, sustained the right of the plaintiffs to maintain it, but overruled their contentions, upheld the ratification, and denied the writ.

Held:

(1) The questions decided were federal questions, arising under. Article V of the Constitution. P. 437.

(2) The complaining senators, whose votes against ratification have been overridden and virtually held for naught, although, if they are right in their contentions, their votes would have been sufficient to defeat ratification, have a plain, direct and adequate interest in maintaining the effectiveness of their votes. They have set up and claimed a right and privilege under the Constitution of the United States to have their votes given effect, and the state court has denied that right and privilege. P. 438.

(3) This Court has jurisdiction to review the decision of the state court by certiorari, under Jud.Code § 237(b). P. 438.

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2. The Court, being equally divided in opinion as to whether the question presents a justiciable controversy, or is a political question, expresses no opinion upon a contention that the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas was not a part of the "legislature," and, under Article V of the Federal Constitution, could not be permitted a deciding vote on the ratification of the proposed amendment. P. 446.

3. In accordance with the precedent of the Fourteenth Amendment, the efficacy of ratification of a proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution by a state legislature which had previously rejected the proposal is held a question for the political departments, with the ultimate authority in the Congress in the exercise of its control over the promulgation of the adoption of the amendment. P. 447.

4. The legislature of Kansas having actually ratified the proposed Child Labor Amendment, this Court should not restrain the state officers from certifying the ratification to the Secretary of State because of an earlier rejection, and thus prevent the question from coming before the political departments. There is found no basis in either Constitution or statute for such judicial action. P. 450.

5. R.S. § 205; 5 U.S.C. 160, presupposes official notice to the Secretary of State when a state legislature has adopted a resolution of ratification. No warrant is seen for judicial interference with the performance of that duty. P. 450.

6. The Congress, in controlling the promulgation of the adoption of a constitutional amendment, has the final determination of the question whether, by lapse of time, its proposal of the amendment had lost its vitality before being adopted by the requisite number of legislatures. P. 451.

7. In determining whether a question falls within the category of political nonjusticiable questions, the appropriateness under our system of government of attributing finality to the action of the political departments, and also the lack of satisfactory criteria for a judicial determination, are dominant considerations. P. 454.

146 Kan. 390; 71 P.2d 518, reversed.

Certiorari, 303 U.S. 632, to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Kansas denying a writ of mandamus, applied for in that court by senators of the State and members of its House of Representatives for the purpose of compelling the Secretary of the Senate to erase an endorsement purporting to show that a resolution for the

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ratification of a proposal to amend the Federal Constitution had passed the Senate, and to restrain the officers of the Senate and the other house of the legislature from signing the resolution and the Secretary of Kansas from authenticating it and delivering it to the Governor.

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

In June, 1924, the Congress proposed an amendment to the Constitution, known as the Child Labor Amendment.1 In January, 1925, the Legislature of Kansas adopted a resolution rejecting the proposed amendment and a certified copy of the resolution was sent to the Secretary of State of the United States. In January, 1937, a resolution known as "Senate Concurrent Resolution

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No. 3" was introduced in the Senate of Kansas ratifying the proposed amendment. There were forty senators. When the resolution came up for consideration, twenty senators voted in favor of its adoption and twenty voted against it. The Lieutenant Governor, the presiding officer of the Senate, then cast his vote in favor of the resolution. The resolution was later adopted by the House of Representatives on the vote of a majority of its members.

This original proceeding in mandamus was then brought in the Supreme Court of Kansas by twenty-one members of the Senate, including the twenty senators who had voted against the resolution, and three members of the house of representatives, to compel the Secretary of the Senate to erase an endorsement on the resolution to the effect that it had been adopted by the Senate and to endorse thereon the words "was not passed," and to restrain the officers of the Senate and House of Representatives from signing the resolution and the Secretary of Kansas from authenticating it and delivering it to the Governor. The petition challenged the right of the Lieutenant Governor to cast the deciding vote in the Senate. The petition also set forth the prior rejection of the proposed amendment, and alleged that, in the period from June, 1924, to March, 1927, the amendment had been rejected by both houses of the legislatures of twenty-six states, and had been ratified in only five states, and that, by reason of that rejection and the failure of ratification within a reasonable time, the proposed amendment had lost its vitality.

An alternative writ was issued. Later the Senate passed a resolution directing the Attorney General to enter the appearance of the State and to represent the State as its interests might appear. Answers were filed

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on behalf of the defendants other than the State, and plaintiffs made their reply.

The Supreme Court found no dispute as to the facts. The court entertained the action and held that the Lieutenant Governor was authorized to cast the deciding vote, that the proposed amendment retained its original vitality, and that the resolution "having duly passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, the act of ratification of the proposed amendment by the Legislature of Kansas was final and complete." The writ of mandamus was accordingly denied. 146 Kan. 390, 71 P.2d 518, 526. This Court granted certiorari. 303 U.S. 632.

First. The jurisdiction of this Court. -- Our authority to issue the writ of certiorari is challenged upon the ground that petitioners have no standing to seek to have the judgment of the state court reviewed, and hence it is urged that the writ of certiorari should be dismissed. We are unable to accept that view.

The state court held that it had jurisdiction; that "the right of the parties to maintain the action is beyond question."2 The state court thus determined in substance [59 S.Ct. 975] that members of the legislature had standing to seek, and the court had jurisdiction to grant, mandamus to compel a proper record of legislative action. Had the questions been solely state questions, the matter would

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have ended there. But the questions raised in the instant case arose under the Federal Constitution, and these questions were entertained and decided by the state court. They arose under Article V of the Constitution, which alone conferred the power to amend and determined the manner in which that power could be exercised. Hawke v. Smith (No. 1), 253 U.S. 221, 227; Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130, 137. Whether any or all of the questions thus raised and decided are deemed to be justiciable or political, they are exclusively federal questions, and not state questions.

We find the cases cited in support of the contention that petitioners lack an adequate interest to invoke our jurisdiction to review to be inapplicable.3 Here, the plaintiffs include twenty senators whose votes against ratification have been overridden and virtually held for naught although if they are right in their contentions their votes would have been sufficient to defeat ratification. We think that these senators have a plain, direct, and adequate...

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