92 U.S. 480 (1876), Kennard v. Louisiana Ex Rel. Morgan

Citation:92 U.S. 480, 23 L.Ed. 478
Case Date:January 10, 1876
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 480

92 U.S. 480 (1876)

23 L.Ed. 478




United States Supreme Court.

January 10, 1876


ERROR to the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana.

On the 3d of December, 1872, John H. Kennard was, during a recess of the senate of Louisiana, appointed by the governor associate justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, in place of W. W. Howe, resigned.

On the 4th of January, 1873, the acting governor commissioned P. H. Morgan associate justice of the Supreme Court, in place of W. W. Howe, resigned. Kennard claimed to hold until the expiration of the next regular session of the legislature.

To settle the disputed title to the office, suit was brought. The courts of Louisiana, proceeding under an act of the legislature of Jan. 15, 1873, determined in favor of Morgan.

The case was then brought here upon the ground that the State of Louisiana acting under this law, through her judiciary, had deprived Kennard of his office without due process of law, in violation of that provision of the Fourteenth Amendment of

Page 481

the Constitution of the United States which prohibits any State from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, 'without due process of law.' The provisions of the law are set forth in the opinion of the court.


Mr. Thomas J. Semmes, Mr. Robert Mott, and Mr. N. P. Chipman, for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. Thomas J. Durant, contra.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.

The sole question presented for our consideration in this case, as stated by the counsel for the plaintiff in error, is, whether the State of Louisiana, acting under the statute of Jan. 15, 1873, through her judiciary, has deprived Kennard of his office without due process of law. It is substantially admitted by counsel in the argument that such is not the case, if it has been done 'in the due course of legal proceedings, according to those rules and forms which have been established for the protection of private rights.' We accept this as a sufficient definition of the term 'due process of law,' for the purposes of the present case. The question before us is, not whether the courts below, having jurisdiction of the case and the parties, have followed the law, but whether the law, if followed, would have furnished Kennard the protection guaranteed by the Constitution. Irregularities and mere errors in the proceedings can only be corrected in the State courts. Our authority does not extend beyond an examination of the power of the courts below to proceed at all.

This makes it necessary for us to examine the law under which the proceedings were had, and determine its effect.

It was entitled 'An Act to regulate proceedings in contestations between persons claiming a judicial office.' Sect. 1 provided, that 'in any case in which a person may have been appointed to the office of judge of any court in this State, and shall have been confirmed by the senate and...

To continue reading