Cipriano v. City of Houma, No. 705

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; BLACK
Citation395 U.S. 701,23 L.Ed.2d 647,89 S.Ct. 1897
Docket NumberNo. 705
Decision Date16 June 1969
PartiesJoseph Q. CIPRIANO, Appellant, v. CITY OF HOUMA et al

395 U.S. 701
89 S.Ct. 1897
23 L.Ed.2d 647
Joseph Q. CIPRIANO, Appellant,

v.

CITY OF HOUMA et al.

No. 705.
Argued April 24, 1969.
Decided June 16, 1969.

Kenneth Watkins, Houma, La., for appellant.

Page 702

Eugene E. Huppenbauer, Jr., New Orleans, La., for appellees.

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, 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583. 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, however, that the municipalities could issue the bonds

Page 703

only if they were approved by a 'majority in number and amount of the property taxpayers qualified to vote * * * (who vote at the bond election).'2 La.Rev.Stat. § 39:501 (1950). See also La.Rev.Stat. §§ 33:4258, 39:508 (1950).

Appellee City of Houma owns and operates gas, water, and electric utility systems. In September 1967 the city officials scheduled a special election to obtain voter approval for the issuance of $10,000,000 of utility revenue bonds. The city planned to finance extension and improvement of the municipally owned utility systems with the bond proceeds. At the special election a majority 'in number and amount' of the property taxpayers approved the bond issue. However, within the period provided by Louisiana law for contesting the result of the election, La.Rev.Stat. § 33:4260 (1950), this suit was instituted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Appellant alleged that he was a duly qualified voter3 of the City of Houma, and that he had been prevented from voting in the revenue bond election solely because he was not a property owner. He sued for himself and for a class of 6,926 nonproperty taxpayers otherwise qualified as City of Houma voters. Appellant sought to enjoin the issuance of the bonds approved at the special election and to obtain a declaratory judgment that the limitation of the franchise to property taxpayers is unconstitutional. A three-judge District Court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2284. The

Page 704

court then dismissed the suit, finding the Louisiana provisions constitutional. Cipriano v. City of Houma, 286 F.Supp. 823 (D.C.E.D.La.1968). Appellant brought a direct appeal to this Court, 28 U.S.C. § 1253; we noted probable jurisdiction. 393 U.S. 1061, 89 S.Ct. 714, 21 L.Ed.2d 704 (1969).

As we noted in Kramer, supra, if a challenged state statute grants the right to vote in a limited purpose election to some otherwise qualified voters and denies it to others,4 'the Court must determine whether the exclusions are necessary to promote a compelling state interest.' Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, supra, at 627, 89 S.Ct. at 1890. Moreover, no less showing that the exclusions are necessary to promote a compelling state interest is required merely because 'the questions scheduled for the election need not have been submitted to the voters.' Id., at 629, 89 S.Ct. at 1890, n. 11.

The appellees maintain that property owners have a 'special pecuniary interest' in the election, because the efficiency of the utility system directly affects 'property and property values' and thus 'the basic security of their investment in (their) property (is) at stake.' Assuming, arguendo,5 that a State might, in some circumstances, constitutionally limit the franchise to qualified voters who are also 'specially interested' in the election, whether the statute allegedly so limiting the franchise denies equal protection of the laws to those otherwise qualified voters who are excluded...

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505 practice notes
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...L.Ed.2d 169 (1966); see Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583 (1969), and Cipriano v. Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969). We know this would be equally true if one's right to migrate were sought to be conditioned upon net wo......
  • Raza Unida Party v. Bullock, No. SA-72-CA-158
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • September 15, 1972
    ...90 S.Ct. 1990, 26 L.Ed.2d 523 (1970); Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 90 S.Ct. 1752, 26 L.Ed.2d 370 (1970); Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969); Kramer v. Union Free School Dist., 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583 (1969); Williams v. Rhode......
  • Myers v. Sullivan, Nos. 89-3533
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • November 6, 1990
    ...'injustice or hardship' by a holding of nonretroactivity." Cipriano v. City of Houma, supra, 395 U.S. at 706, 89 S.Ct. [1897] at 1900 [23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969) 404 U.S. at 106-07, 92 S.Ct. at 355. See also Ackinclose v. Palm Beach County, Fla., 845 F.2d 931 (11th Cir.1988). Applying the first ......
  • League of Women Voters v. Diamond, Civ. No. 96-0052-B.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • February 19, 1997
    ...to strict scrutiny. E.g., McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618, 629, 98 S.Ct. 1322, 1329, 55 L.Ed.2d 593 (1978); Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 704, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 1899-1900, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 There is one type of content based election law that bears mentioning separately. A law that excl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
503 cases
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...L.Ed.2d 169 (1966); see Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583 (1969), and Cipriano v. Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969). We know this would be equally true if one's right to migrate were sought to be conditioned upon net wo......
  • Raza Unida Party v. Bullock, No. SA-72-CA-158
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • September 15, 1972
    ...90 S.Ct. 1990, 26 L.Ed.2d 523 (1970); Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 90 S.Ct. 1752, 26 L.Ed.2d 370 (1970); Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969); Kramer v. Union Free School Dist., 395 U.S. 621, 89 S.Ct. 1886, 23 L.Ed.2d 583 (1969); Williams v. Rhode......
  • Myers v. Sullivan, Nos. 89-3533
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • November 6, 1990
    ...'injustice or hardship' by a holding of nonretroactivity." Cipriano v. City of Houma, supra, 395 U.S. at 706, 89 S.Ct. [1897] at 1900 [23 L.Ed.2d 647 (1969) 404 U.S. at 106-07, 92 S.Ct. at 355. See also Ackinclose v. Palm Beach County, Fla., 845 F.2d 931 (11th Cir.1988). Applying the first ......
  • League of Women Voters v. Diamond, Civ. No. 96-0052-B.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • February 19, 1997
    ...to strict scrutiny. E.g., McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U.S. 618, 629, 98 S.Ct. 1322, 1329, 55 L.Ed.2d 593 (1978); Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 704, 89 S.Ct. 1897, 1899-1900, 23 L.Ed.2d 647 There is one type of content based election law that bears mentioning separately. A law that excl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1968-1969
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 23-1, March 1970
    • March 1, 1970
    ...revenue bonds by a municipalutility was held void as denying equal protection under the Fourteenth Amend-ment. Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701; 89 S. Ct. 1897. The decision wasper One of the unusual decisions handed down by the Court this term was that of Powell v. McCormack (395 U.......
  • The Rules are Different Here
    • United States
    • Administration & Society Nbr. 37-4, September 2005
    • September 1, 2005
    ...“secession of the successful”: Democ-racy and fairness beyond the gate.Fordham Urban Law Journal,28, 1675-1692.Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701 (1969).City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski, 399 U.S. 204 (1970).Clingermayer, J. C.,& Feiock, R. C. (2001). Institutional constraints and policy......

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