457 U.S. 957 (1982), 80-1290, Clements v. Fashing

Docket Nº:No. 80-1290
Citation:457 U.S. 957, 102 S.Ct. 2836, 73 L.Ed.2d 508
Party Name:Clements v. Fashing
Case Date:June 25, 1982
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 957

457 U.S. 957 (1982)

102 S.Ct. 2836, 73 L.Ed.2d 508

Clements

v.

Fashing

No. 80-1290

United States Supreme Court

June 25, 1982

Argued January 12, 1982

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Article III, § 19, of the Texas Constitution provides that

[n]o judge of any court, Secretary of State, Attorney General, clerk of any court of record, or any person holding a lucrative office under the United States, or this State, or any foreign government shall during the term for which he is elected or appointed, be eligible to the Legislature.

As interpreted by the Texas Supreme Court, § 19 requires an officeholder to complete his current term of office -- if it overlaps the legislature's term -- before he may be eligible to serve in the state legislature. Article XVI, § 65, provides that, if holders of certain state and county offices whose unexpired term exceeds one year become candidates for any other state or federal office, this shall constitute an automatic resignation of the office then held. Appellees -- who challenged these provisions in Federal District Court as violating the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution -- included officeholders subject to § 65, each of whom alleged that he would have announced his candidacy for higher judicial office except that such announcement would constitute an automatic resignation from his current position, and one of whom (Baca), a Justice of the Peace, also alleged that he could not become a candidate for the state legislature because of § 19. The other appellees were voters who alleged that they would vote for the officeholder appellees were they to become candidates. The District Court held that the challenged provisions denied appellees equal protection, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The judgment is reversed. 631 F.2d 731, reversed.

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and V, concluding that:

1. The uncontested allegations in the complaint are sufficient to create an actual case or controversy between the officeholder appellees and those Texas officials charged with enforcing §§ 19 and 6. Pp. 961-962.

2. Sections 19 and 65 do not violate the First Amendment. The State's interests are sufficient to warrant the de minimis interference with appellees' First Amendment interests in candidacy. In addition,

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appellees' First Amendment challenge [102 S.Ct. 2841] as elected state officeholders contesting restrictions on partisan political activity must fail, since §§ 19 and 65 represent a far more limited restriction on political activity than has been upheld with regard to civil servants. Cf. CSC v. Letter Carriers, 413 U.S. 548; Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601; United Public Workers v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75. Pp. 971-973.

JUSTICE REHNQUIST, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE POWELL, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concluded in Parts III and IV that neither of the challenged provisions of the Texas Constitution violates the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 962-971.

(a) Candidacy is not a "fundamental right" that itself requires departure from traditional equal protection principles under which state law classifications need only be drawn in such a manner as to bear some rational relationship to a legitimate state end. Decision in this area of constitutional adjudication is a matter of degree, and involves a consideration of the facts and circumstances behind the law, the interests the State seeks to protect by placing restrictions on candidacy, and the nature of the interests of those who may be burdened by the restrictions. In determining whether the provisions challenged here deserve "scrutiny" more vigorous than that which the traditional principles would require, the nature of the interests affected and the extent of the burden the challenged provisions place on the candidacy of current officeholder must be examined. Pp. 962-966.

(b) As applied to Baca, a Justice of the Peace whose term of office is four years, whereas a state legislator's term is two years, § 19 simply requires that Baca must wait, at most, two years -- one election cycle -- before he may run as a candidate for the legislature. In establishing this maximum "waiting period," § 19 places a de minimis burden on the political aspirations of a current officeholder. This sort of insignificant interference with access to the ballot need only rest on a rational predicate in order to survive an equal protection challenge. Section 19 clearly rests on a rational predicate, since it furthers Texas' interests in maintaining the integrity of its Justices of the Peace by ensuring that they will neither abuse their position nor neglect their duties because of aspirations for higher office. Moreover, Texas has a legitimate interest in discouraging its Justices of the Peace from vacating their current terms of office, thereby avoiding the difficulties that accompany interim elections and appointments. Nor is § 19 invalid in that it burdens only those officeholders who desire to run for the legislature. It would be a perversion of the Equal Protection Clause to conclude that Texas must restrict a Justice of the Peace's candidacy for all offices before it can restrict his candidacy for any office. Pp. 966-970.

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(c) The burdens imposed on candidacy by the automatic resignation provision of § 65 are even less substantial than those imposed by § 19. Both provisions serve essentially the same state interests. Nor is § 65 invalid on the ground that it applies only to certain elected officials and not to others. Its history shows that the resignation provision was a creature of state electoral reforms, and a regulation is not devoid of a rational predicate simply because it happens to be incomplete. The Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit Texas from restricting one elected officeholder's candidacy for another elected office unless and until it places similar restrictions on other officeholders. Pp. 970-971.

REHNQUIST, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and V, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts III and IV, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 973. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, and in Part I of which WHITE, J., joined,post, p. 976.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and V, and delivered an opinion with respect to Parts III and IV, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE POWELL, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR joined.

[102 S.Ct. 2842] Appellees in this case challenge two provisions of the Texas Constitution that limit a public official's ability to become a candidate for another public office. The primary question in this appeal is whether these provisions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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I

Article III, § 19, of the Texas Constitution provides:

No judge of any court, Secretary of State, Attorney General, clerk of any court of record, or any person holding a lucrative office under the United States, or this State, or any foreign government shall during the term for which he is elected or appointed, be eligible to the Legislature.

Section 19 renders an officeholder ineligible for the Texas Legislature if his current term of office will not expire until after the legislative term to which he aspires begins. Lee v. Daniels, 377 S.W.2d 618, 619 (Tex.1964). Resignation is ineffective to avoid § 19 if the officeholder's current term of office overlaps the term of the legislature to which he seeks election. Ibid. In other words, § 19 requires an officeholder to complete his current term of office before he may be eligible to serve in the legislature.

Article XVI, § 65, is commonly referred to as a "resign-to-run" or "automatic resignation" provision. Section 65 covers a wide range of state and county offices.1 It provides in relevant part:

[I]f any of the officers named herein shall announce their candidacy, or shall in fact become a candidate, in any General, Special or Primary Election, for any office of profit or trust under the laws of this State or the United States other than the office then held, at any time when the unexpired term of the office then held shall exceed one (1) year, such announcement or such candidacy shall constitute an automatic resignation of the office then held.

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Four of the appellees are officeholders subject to the automatic resignation provision of § 65. Fashing is a County Judge, Baca and McGhee are Justices of the Peace, and Ybarra is a Constable. Each officeholder appellee alleged in the complaint that he is qualified under Texas law to be a candidate for higher judicial office, and that the reason he has not and will not announce his candidacy is that such an announcement will constitute an automatic resignation from his current position. Appellee Baca alleged in addition that he could not become a candidate for the legislature because of § 19. The remaining appellees are 20 voters who allege that they would vote for the officeholder appellees were they to become candidates.

The District Court for the Western District of Texas held that § 19 and § 65 denied appellees equal protection. Fashing v. Moore, 489 F.Supp. 471 (1980). The District Court concluded that § 19 created "classifications that are invidiously discriminatory." Id. at 475. The District Court explained...

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