418 U.S. 208 (1974), 72-1188, Schlesinger v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War

Docket Nº:No. 72-1188
Citation:418 U.S. 208, 94 S.Ct. 2925, 41 L.Ed.2d 706
Party Name:Schlesinger v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War
Case Date:June 25, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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418 U.S. 208 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 2925, 41 L.Ed.2d 706

Schlesinger

v.

Reservists Committee to Stop the War

No. 72-1188

United States Supreme Court

June 25, 1974

Argued January 14, 1974

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondents -- an association of present and former members of the Armed Forces Reserve opposing United States involvement in Vietnam, and five association members who were United States citizens and taxpayers -- brought a class action on behalf, inter alia, of all United States citizens and taxpayers against petitioners, the Secretary of Defense and the three Service Secretaries, challenging the Reserve membership of Members of Congress as violating the Incompatibility Clause of Art. I, § 6, cl. 2, of the Constitution, which provides that "no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office." The District Court held that respondents had standing to sue as citizens but not as taxpayers, and, on the merits, granted partial relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:

1. Respondents had no standing to sue as citizens, since the claimed nonobservance of the Incompatibility Clause which they assert deprives citizens of the faithful discharge of the legislative duties of reservist Members of Congress implicates only the generalized interest of all citizens in constitutional governance, and is thus merely an abstract injury, rather than the concrete injury that is essential to satisfy Art. III's "case or controversy" requirement. Pp. 216-227.

2. Respondents also lacked standing to sue as taxpayers, since they failed to establish the required "logical nexus between the [taxpayer] status asserted and the claim sought to be adjudicated." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 102. Pp. 227-228.

162 U.S.App.D.C. 19, 495 F.2d 1075, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 228. DOUGLAS, J.,

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filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 229. BRENNAN, J., post, p. 235, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 238, filed dissenting opinions.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

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

We granted certiorari, sub nom. Richardson v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War, 411 U.S. 947 (1973), to review the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming, without opinion, the District Court's partial summary judgment for respondents declaring that "Article I, Section 6, Cause 2 of the Constitution renders a member of Congress ineligible to hold a commission in the Armed Forces Reserve during his continuance in office." Reservists Committee to Stop the War v. Laird, 323 F.Supp. 833, 843 (DC 1971). We hold that respondents do not have standing to sue as citizens or taxpayers. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed.

I

Article I, § 6, cl. 2, of the Federal Constitution provides:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments

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whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

The Constitution thereby makes Members of Congress ineligible for appointment to certain offices through the limitation of the Ineligibility Clause, and prohibits Members of Congress from holding other offices through the latter limitation, the Incompatibility Clause.

Respondents, the Reservists Committee to Stop the War and certain named members thereof,1 challenged the Reserve membership of Members of Congress2 as being

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in violation of the Incompatibility Clause. They commenced a class action in the District Court against petitioners, the Secretary of Defense and the three Service Secretaries, seeking (1) an order in the nature of mandamus directed to petitioners requiring them to strike from the roll of the Reserves all Members of Congress presently thereon, to discharge any member of the Reserves who subsequently became a Member of Congress, and to seek to reclaim from Members and former Members of Congress any Reserve pay said Members received while serving as Members of Congress, (2) a permanent injunction preventing petitioners from placing on the rolls of the Reserves any Member of Congress while serving in Congress, and (3) a declaration that membership in the Reserves is an office under the United States prohibited to Members of Congress by Art. I, § 6, cl. 2, and incompatible with membership in the Congress.

Respondents sought the above relief on behalf of four classes of persons. The Committee and the individual respondents sought to represent the interests of (1) all persons opposed to United States military involvement in Vietnam and purporting to use lawful means, including communication with and persuasion of Members of Congress, to end that involvement. The individual respondents alone sought to represent the interests of (2) all officers and enlisted members of the Reserves who were not Members of Congress, (3) all taxpayers of the United States, and (4) all citizens of the United States. The interests of these four classes were alleged to be adversely affected by the Reserve membership of Members of Congress in various ways.

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As relevant here, citizens and taxpayers were alleged in respondents' complaint to have suffered injury because Members of Congress holding a Reserve position in the Executive Branch were said to be subject to the possibility of undue influence by the Executive Branch,3 in violation of the concept of the independence of Congress implicit in Art. I of the Constitution. Reserve membership was also said to place upon Members of Congress possible inconsistent obligations which might cause them to violate their duty faithfully to perform as reservists or as Members of Congress. Reserve membership by Members of Congress thus, according to respondents' complaint,

deprives or may deprive the individual named plaintiffs and all other citizens and taxpayers of the United States of the faithful discharge by members of Congress who are members of the Reserves of their duties as members of Congress, to which all citizens and taxpayers are entitled.

Pet. for Cert. 46.

Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss respondents' complaint on the ground that respondents lacked standing to bring the action, and because the complaint failed to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. The latter ground was based upon the contention that the Incompatibility Clause sets forth a qualification for Membership in the Congress, U.S.Const., Art. I, § 5, cl. 1, not a qualification for a position in the Executive Branch. The power to judge that qualification was asserted

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to rest exclusively with Congress, not the courts, under Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 550 (1969).

The District Court concluded that it first had to determine whether respondents had standing to bring the action and, without citation to authority, stated:

In recent years, the Supreme Court has greatly expanded the concept of standing, and, in this Circuit, the concept has now been almost completely abandoned.

323 F.Supp. at 839. The court then held that, of the four classes respondents sought to represent, "[o]nly their status as citizens" gave them standing to sue in this case. Id. at 840. The District Court denied standing to respondents as reservists, as opponents of our Vietnam involvement, and as taxpayers. The court acknowledged that there were very few instances in which the assertion of "merely the undifferentiated interest of citizens," ibid., would be sufficient, but was persuaded to find that interest sufficient here by several considerations it found present in the nature of the dispute before it and by the asserted abandonment of standing limitations by the Court of Appeals, whose decisions were binding on the District Court.

In response to petitioners' contention that the Incompatibility Clause sets forth a qualification only for Membership in the Congress, which Congress alone might judge, the District Court characterized the issue as whether respondents presented a nonjusticiable "political question," resolution of which by the text of the Constitution was committed to the Congress under Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962). The court held that the failure of the Executive Branch to remove reservist Members of Congress from their Reserve positions was justiciable.

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Having resolved the issues of standing and political question in favor of respondents, the District Court held on the merits that a commission in the Reserves is an "Office under the United States" within the meaning of the Incompatibility Clause. On the basis of the foregoing, the court, in its final order, granted partial summary judgment for respondents by declaring that the Incompatibility Clause renders a Member of Congress ineligible, during his continuance in office, to hold a Reserve "commission"; the court denied such parts of respondents' motion for summary judgment which sought a permanent injunction and relief in the nature of mandamus.4 323 F.Supp. at 843.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the District Court in an unpublished opinion "on the basis of the memorandum opinion of the District Court." The Court of Appeals added that it was "also of the view that [respondents] have the requisite standing and that their...

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