381 F.Supp. 327 (D.Md. 1974), Civ. Y-74-748, Kirkley v. State of Maryland, by Mandel

Docket NºCiv. Y-74-748
Citation381 F.Supp. 327
Party NameKirkley v. State of Maryland, by Mandel
Case DateAugust 26, 1974
CourtUnited States District Courts, 4th Circuit, District of Maryland

Page 327

381 F.Supp. 327 (D.Md. 1974)

Charles F. KIRKLEY and Patricia Atherton


STATE OF MARYLAND, Represented by Marvin MANDEL, Governor of Maryland, and Francis B. Burch, Attorney General for Maryland.

Civ. No. Y-74-748.

United States District Court, D. Maryland.

Aug. 26, 1974

Page 328

Barbara A. Gold, Kenneth L. Lasson, Baltimore, Md., for plaintiffs.

George A. Nilson, Baltimore, Md., for defendants.


JOSEPH H. YOUNG, District Judge.

Article III, Section 11 of the Constitution of the State of Maryland provides that:

No Minister or Preacher of the Gospel, or of any religious creed, or denomination, and no person holding any civil office of profit, or trust, under this State, except Justices of the Peace, shall be eligible as Senator or Delegate.

In this action plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that Section 11 is unconstitutional insofar as it applies to clergymen. Plaintiff Charles Kirkley is a candidate for election to the Maryland House of Delegates and Minister of the St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Kensington, Maryland. The other plaintiff, Patricia Atherton, is a registered voter in the legislative district from which plaintiff Kirkley seeks election to the House of Delegates.

Since the complaint herein, as originally filed, requested injunctive as well as declaratory relief, a three-judge court, as required by 28 U.S.C.§ 2281, was designated by Chief Judge Haynsworth of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. 1 Subsequently, the complaint was amended to delete the request for injunctive relief and, there being no further need for the three-judge court, it was dissolved.

No question has been raised by the defendants as to the plaintiffs' standing to sue, and it appears quite clear that each has 'alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues * * *,' Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962), and that, as to each, 'there is a logical nexus between the status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated.' Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 102, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1953, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). Plaintiff Kirkley, although allowed to file as a candidate, has experienced substantial difficulties in his campaign to date as a result of his status as a minister. It seems

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unquestionable that his ability to attract the votes and support of his fellow citizens is seriously impaired by the prospect of his candidacy ultimately being declared illegal. Plaintiff Atherton has expressed her intention to vote for plaintiff Kirkley, and is thus directly concerned with the validity of plaintiff Kirkley's candidacy. The right to vote is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of the United States, Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 336, 92 S.Ct. 995, 31 L.Ed.2d 274 (1972). The injury which could result to plaintiff Atherton is manifest; if plaintiff Kirkley's candidacy is ruled illegal after the election, she will have been, in effect, denied her vote.

One unusual factor to consider in regard to the justiciability of this case is that the defendants have, for all intents and purposes, admitted the unconstitutionality of the provision here challenged. Concern, therefore, arises as to whether there here exists a case or controversy as required by Article III of the Constitution. See, Moore v. Board of Education, 402 U.S. 47, 91 S.Ct. 1292, 28 L.Ed.2d 590 (1971).

Although plaintiff Kirkley was allowed to file as a candidate despite the restriction in the Maryland Constitution, it is impossible to say what could happen if he were elected. His seating in the House of Delegates could be challenged by his opponent or others as a violation of the Maryland Constitution. The present Attorney General has issued an opinion expressing the view that the provision in question is unconstitutional. However, as the opinion points out, the Attorney General does not have the authority to invalidate the provision. Moreover, it is possible that a subsequent Attorney General might disagree with this evaluation.

These are not merely possibilities which may not take place. Cf. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 128, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973). Rather, they are possibilities which, because of their very existence, result in a very real and immediate injury. By his candidacy for office, plaintiff Kirkley is already in violation of the constitutional provision. His concern with a possible invocation of that provision is not 'chimerical,' Poe v. Ulman, 367 U.S. 497, 508, 81 S.Ct. 1752, 6 L.Ed.2d 989 (1961). Cf. Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 188, 93 S.Ct. 739, 35 L.Ed.2d 201 (1973). This Court is satisfied that the case presents 'a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and realty to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.'

Plaintiffs allege that Section 11 of Article III is unconstitutional under both the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment 2 and the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Considering first the Free Exercise argument, there is some controversy as to whether or not the right to hold political office is a constitutionally protected right, and, if it is, as to the exact nature of that right. Most of the cases which have considered the question have done so in the context of an alleged denial of equal protection. Compare, e.g., Mancuso v. Taft, 476 F.2d 187 (1st Cir. 1973); Duncantell v. City of Houston, Texas, 333 F.Supp. 973 (S.D.Tex.1971); Thomas v. Mims, 317 F.Supp. 179 (S.D.Ala.1970), with Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 64 S.Ct. 397, 88 L.Ed. 497 (1944); Blassman v. Markworth, 359 F.Supp. 1 (N.D.Ill.1973) (three-judge court); Heiser v. Rhodes, 305 F.Supp. 269 (S.D.Ohio 1969) (three-judge court); Stack v. Adams, 315 F.Supp. 1295, 1297 (N.D.Fla.1970) (three-judge court). Cf. Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 92 S.Ct. 849, 31 L.Ed.2d 92 (1972). However, there is no doubt that a 'State may not deny to some the privilege of holding public office that it extends to others on the...

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