395 U.S. 701 (1969), 705, Cipriano v. City of Houma

Docket Nº:No. 705
Citation:395 U.S. 701, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647
Party Name:Cipriano v. City of Houma
Case Date:June 16, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 701

395 U.S. 701 (1969)

89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647

Cipriano

v.

City of Houma

No. 705

United States Supreme Court

June 16, 1969

Argued April 24, 1969

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

Louisiana law provides that only "property taxpayers" have the right to vote in elections called to approve the issuance of revenue bonds by a municipal utility system. At a special election, a majority of the property taxpayers approved a bond issue for the City of Houma's municipally owned utility systems. Within the period permitted to contest the election result, appellant, a nonproperty taxpayer otherwise qualified to vote, brought suit for himself and others similarly situated to enjoin the issuance of the bonds and to obtain a declaratory judgment that the limitation of the franchise to property taxpayers is unconstitutional. A three-judge District Court held the limitation constitutional.

Held:

1. The "property taxpayer" limitation on the franchise violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, ante, p. 621.

(a) Where the State grants the right to vote in a limited purpose election to some qualified voters and denies it to others, "the Court must determine whether the exclusions are necessary to promote a compelling state interest." Kramer, supra, at 627.

(b) Here, the benefits and burdens of the bond issue fall indiscriminately on property owner and nonproperty owner alike, and the classification thus unconstitutionally excludes otherwise qualified voters who are as substantially affected and directly interested in the matter voted on as those who are permitted to vote.

2. This decision will have prospective effect, and will apply only where the time for challenging the election result has not expired, or in cases brought within the time specified for challenging the election and which are not yet final.

286 F.Supp. 823, reversed and remanded.

Page 702

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

In this case, we must determine whether provisions of Louisiana law which give only "property taxpayers" the right to vote in elections called to approve the issuance of revenue bonds by a municipal utility are constitutional. This case thus presents an issue similar to the one considered in Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, ante, p. 621. With one judge dissenting, a three-judge District Court determined that the Louisiana provisions were constitutional. However, as in Kramer, we find that the challenged provisions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; we therefore reverse.

The Louisiana Constitution provides that the legislature may authorize municipalities to issue bonds "[f]or the purpose of constructing, acquiring, extending or improving any revenue-producing public utility." La.Const., Art. 14, § 14 (m). Pursuant to this provision, the legislature enacted legislation authorizing Louisiana municipalities to issue revenue bonds. La.Rev.Stat. § 33:4251 (1950).1 The legislature further provided, [89 S.Ct. 1899] however, that the municipalities could issue the bonds

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only if they were approved by a "majority in number and amount of the property...

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