Adams v. Clinton

Decision Date20 March 2000
Docket NumberNo. CIV.98-1665LFOMBGCKK.,No. CIV.98-2187LFOMBGCKK.,CIV.98-1665LFOMBGCKK.,CIV.98-2187LFOMBGCKK.
Citation90 F.Supp.2d 35
PartiesLois E. ADAMS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. William Jefferson CLINTON, et al., Defendants. Clifford Alexander, et al., Plaintiffs, v. William M. Daley, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

George Simons LaRoche, Takoma Park, MD, Robert Douglass Wick, Charles Alvin Miller, Thomas Samuel Williamson, Jr., Covington & Burling, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Hon. John M. Ferren, Paul Eric Strauss (Senator), Morgan John Frankel, U.S. Senate, Theodore C. Hirt, DOJ, Civil Div., John Russell Tyler, DOJ, Civil Div., Robert B. Ahdieh, DOJ, Civil Div., Kerry W. Kircher, OGC, House of Representatives, Daniel A. Reznick, D.C. Financial Resp. & Mgmt. Asst. Authority, Thomas B. Griffith, U.S. Senate, Jonathan Lynwood Abram, Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC, John Marshall Smallwood, Gregory K. Wells & Associates, Lawrence Hillel Mirel, Mirel & Algei, Washington, DC, Ann Christine Wilcox, Statehood Party, Washington, DC, Walter A. Smith, Jr., Esq., Robert R. Rigsby, OCC, for Defendants/Movants/amicus.

Before: GARLAND, Circuit Judge, and OBERDORFER and KOLLARKOTELLY, District Judges.



In these consolidated lawsuits, seventy-five residents of the District of Columbia, along with the District of Columbia itself, challenge as unconstitutional the denial of their right to elect representatives to the Congress of the United States. Plaintiffs argue that their exclusion from representation is unjust. They note that the citizens of the District pay federal taxes and defend the United States in times of war, yet are denied any vote in the Congress that levies those taxes and declares those wars. This, they continue, contravenes a central tenet of our nation's ideals: that governments "deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed." THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE para. 2.

None of the parties contests the justice of plaintiffs' cause. President Clinton and the other defendants, however, maintain that the dictates of the Constitution and the decisions of the Supreme Court bar us from providing the relief plaintiffs seek. Any such relief, they say, must come through the political process.

Plaintiffs' grievances are serious, and we have given them the most serious consideration. In the end, however, we are constrained to agree with defendants that the remedies plaintiffs request are beyond this court's authority to grant.


On June 30, 1998, D.C. resident Lois Adams and nineteen co-plaintiffs filed suit in Adams v. Clinton. Their complaint alleges that the failure to apportion congressional representatives to the District, and to permit District residents to vote in House and Senate elections, violates their constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws and to a republican form of government. They further contend that those same rights are violated by Congress's exercise of exclusive jurisdiction over the District, and by its denial to plaintiffs of "a state government, insulated from Congressional interference in matters of local concern." Adams Compl. ¶ 109. In connection with the latter claim, they seek an injunction directing the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, commonly known as the "Control Board,"1 to "take no further action" and to "disband itself." Id. at 28. The Adams complaint names as defendants President William Jefferson Clinton, the Clerk and the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives, and the Control Board.

On September 14, 1998, District of Columbia resident Clifford Alexander, fifty-six other residents of the District, and the District itself filed suit in Alexander v. Daley. Like their counterparts in Adams, the Alexander plaintiffs allege that their inability to vote for representatives and senators violates their rights to equal protection and to a republican form of government. The Alexander plaintiffs also allege that the denial of congressional representation violates their right to due process and abridges their privileges and immunities as citizens of the United States. Finally, they contend that the denial of their right to vote violates Article I and the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution, which provide that the members of the House shall be chosen by "the People of the several States" and that senators shall come "from each State, elected by the people thereof." U.S. CONST. art. I, § 2, cl. 1; id. amend. XVII, cl. 1. The Alexander complaint names as defendants Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley; the Clerk, the Sergeant at Arms, and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives; the Secretary and the Doorkeeper/Sergeant at Arms of the Senate; and the United States.

On November 3, 1998, a single-judge district court consolidated the two lawsuits. See Adams v. Clinton, Civ. No. 98-1665 (D.D.C. Nov. 3, 1998) (Oberdorfer, J.). On November 6, that court granted motions by both sets of plaintiffs to appoint a three-judge district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a), which provides that "[a] district court of three judges shall be convened ... when an action is filed challenging the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts." See Adams v. Clinton, 26 F.Supp.2d 156, 160 (D.D.C.1998) (Oberdorfer, J.). This court subsequently convened, disposed of certain preliminary motions, see Adams v. Clinton, 40 F.Supp.2d 1, 5 (D.D.C.1999), and heard oral argument.

Currently pending are motions to dismiss or for summary judgment on behalf of each of the parties. All parties agree that the consolidated lawsuits contain no genuine issue as to any material fact and that decision on the pending motions is appropriate. We first address whether all of the claims disputed in these motions are properly before this three-judge panel. We then address the standing of plaintiffs to pursue those claims that are properly before us. Finally, we examine the merits of those claims.


The parties have not asked us to revisit the original judge's determination that this case falls within the confines of the three-judge court statute, and we will not do so insofar as the complaints allege the failure to apportion members of the House of Representatives to the District. We have, however, determined that this court should relinquish jurisdiction over the other claims raised in the complaints and pending motions. These include both complaints' demands for representation in the Senate, which, because they do not "challeng[e] the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts," plainly fall outside the jurisdictional mandate of section 2284(a). They also include the Adams plaintiffs' challenges to Congress' continuing exercise of exclusive authority over matters of local concern, particularly their challenge to the existence of the Control Board. Although these claims involve some issues akin to those found in the representation claims, they do not directly challenge congressional apportionment and therefore also fall outside the language of section 2284(a). Cf. Public Serv. Comm'n v. Brashear Freight Lines, 312 U.S. 621, 625, 61 S.Ct. 784, 85 L.Ed. 1083 (1941) (holding that three-judge court should not consider "questions not within the statutory purpose for which the two additional judges ha[ve] been called").

Not only do the aforementioned claims fall outside the scope of section 2284(a), but they are also not the type of claims over which three-judge courts commonly assert supplemental jurisdiction. See generally Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802, 812, 94 S.Ct. 2191, 40 L.Ed.2d 566 (1974) (indicating that three-judge courts may assert ancillary jurisdiction over certain non-three-judge claims); Lake Carriers' Ass'n v. MacMullan, 406 U.S. 498, 504 n. 5, 92 S.Ct. 1749, 32 L.Ed.2d 257 (1972) (same). For example, it is not necessary to resolve the Senate and Control Board claims in order to provide a "final and authoritative decision of the controversy" among the parties involved in the apportionment claims. Public Serv. Comm'n, 312 U.S. at 625 n. 5, 61 S.Ct. 784; see also Allee, 416 U.S. at 812 n. 8, 94 S.Ct. 2191. Nor is this a case in which resolution of the non-three-judge claims would allow us to dispose of the claims that provide the basis for our jurisdiction. See Allee, 416 U.S. at 812 n. 8, 94 S.Ct. 2191; United States v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 371 U.S. 285, 287-88, 83 S.Ct. 397, 9 L.Ed.2d 317 (1963) ("Once [a three-judge court has been] convened the case can be disposed of below or here on any ground, whether or not it would have justified the calling of a three-judge court."): see also Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 402, 90 S.Ct. 1207, 25 L.Ed.2d 442 (1970) (stating that three-judge court must decide non-constitutional claims "in preference to deciding the original constitutional claim" for which court convened).

Because the claims that do not directly challenge the apportionment of representatives do not implicate the concerns that have traditionally caused three-judge courts to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, it may be improper for us to exercise such jurisdiction over them. Cf. Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 86-87, 91 S.Ct. 674, 27 L.Ed.2d 701 (1971) (holding that three-judge court convened to hear challenges to certain state laws did not have jurisdiction over related attack on similar local ordinance). Even if our jurisdiction over those claims were proper, however, we would retain the discretion not to exercise it. See Turner Broad, Sys., Inc. v. FCC, 810 F.Supp. 1308, 1314 (D.D.C.1992) (three-judge court). As we noted at an earlier stage in these proceedings, the Supreme Court has indicated that "even when [a] three-judge court has jurisdiction over [an] ancillary claim, `the most appropriate course' may be to remand it to [a] single district judge." Adams, 40...

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