Coleman v. Miller

Decision Date05 June 1939
Docket NumberNo. 7,7
PartiesCOLEMAN et al. v. MILLER, Secretary of the Senate of State of Kansas, et al. Re
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 433-435 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Robert Stone, of Topeka, Kan., and Rolla W. Coleman, of Olathe, Kan., for petitioners.

Mr. Clarence V. Beck, of Topeka, Kan., for respondents.

Mr. Robert H. Jackson, Sol. Gen., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

In June, 1924, the Congress proposed an amendment to the Constitution, known as the Child Labor Amendment.1 In January, 1925, the Legislature of Kansas adopted a resolution rejecting the proposed amendment and a certified copy of the resolution was sent to the Secretary of State of the United States. In January, 1937, a resolution known as 'Senate Concurrent Resolu- tion No. 3' was introduced in the Senate of Kansas ratifying the proposed amendment. There were forty senators. When the resolution came up for consideration, twenty senators voted in favor of its adoption and twenty voted against it. The Lieutenant Governor, the presiding officer of the Senate, then cast his vote in favor of the resolution. The resolution was later adopted by the House of Representatives on the vote of a majority of its members.

This original proceeding in mandamus was then brought in the Supreme Court of Kansas by twenty-one members of the Senate, including the twenty senators who had voted against the resolution, and three members of the house of representatives, to compel the Secretary of the Senate to erase an endorsement on the resolution to the effect that it had been adopted by the Senate and to endorse thereon the words 'was not passed', and to restrain the officers of the Senate and House of Representatives from signing the resolution and the Secretary of State of Kansas from authenticating it and delivering it to the Governor. The petition challenged the right of the Lieutenant Governor to cast the deciding vote in the Senate. The petition also set forth the prior rejection of the proposed amendment and alleged that in the period from June, 1924, to March, 1927, the amendment had been rejected by both houses of the legislatures of twenty-six states, and had been ratified in only five states, and that by reason of that rejection and the failure of ratification within a reasonable time the proposed amendment had lost its vitality.

An alternative writ was issued. Later the Senate passed a resolution directing the Attorney General to enter the appearance of the State and to represent the State as its interests might appear. Answers were filed on behalf of the defendants other than the State and plaintiffs made their reply.

The Supreme Court found no dispute as to the facts. The court entertained the action and held that the Lieutenant Governor was authorized to cast the deciding vote, that the proposed amendment retained its original vitality, and that the resolution 'having duly passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, the act of ratification of the proposed amendment by the Legislature of Kansas was final and complete'. The writ of mandamus was accordingly denied. 146 Kan. 390, 71 P.2d 518, 526. This Court granted certiorari. 303 U.S. 632, 58 S.Ct. 758, 82 L.Ed. 1092.

First.—The jurisdiction of this Court.—Our authority to issue the writ of certiorari is challenged upon the ground that petitioners have no standing to seek to have the judgment of the state court reviewed, and hence it is urged that the writ of certiorari should be dismissed. We are unable to accept that view.

The state court held that it had jurisdiction; that 'the right of the parties to maintain the action is beyond question'.2 The state court thus determined in substance that members of the legislature had standing to seek, and the court had jurisdiction to grant, mandamus to compel a proper record of legislative action. Had the questions been solely state questions, the matter would have ended there. But the questions raised in the instant case arose under the Federal Constitution and these questions were entertained and decided by the state court. They arose under Article V of the Constitution, U.S.C.A., which alone conferred the power to amend and determined the manner in which that power could be exercised. Hawke v. Smith (No. 1), 253 U.S. 221, 227, 40 S.Ct. 495, 497, 64 L.Ed. 871, 10 A.L.R. 1504; Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130, 137, 42 S.Ct. 217, 66 L.Ed. 505. Whether any or all of the questions thus raised and decided are deemed to be justiciable or political, they are exclusively federal questions and not state questions.

We find the cases cited in support of the contention, that petitioners lack an adequate interest to invoke our jurisdiction to review, to be inapplicable. 3 Here, the plaintiffs include twenty senators, whose votes against ratification have been overridden and virtually held for naught although if they are right in their contentions their votes would have been sufficient to defeat ratification. We think that these senators have a plain, direct and adequate interest in maintaining the effectiveness of their votes. Petitioners come directly within the provisions of the statute governing our appellate jurisdiction. They have set up and claimed a right and privilege under the Constitution of the United States to have their votes given effect and the state court has denied that right and privilege. As the validity of a state statute was not assailed, the remedy by appeal was not available, Jud.Code, Sec. 237(a), 28 U.S.C. § 344(a), 28 U.S.C.A. § 344(a), and the appropriate remedy was by writ of certiorari which we granted. Jud.Code, Sec. 237(b), 28 U.S.C. § 344(b), 28 U.S.C.A. § 344(b).

The contention to the contrary is answered by our decisions in Hawke v. Smith, supra, and Leser v. Garnett supra. In Hawke v. Smith, supra, the plaintiff in error, suing as a 'citizen and elector of the State of Ohio, and as a taxpayer and elector of the County of Hamilton', on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, filed a petition for an injunction in the state court to restrain the Secretary of State from spending the public money in preparing and printing ballots for submission of a referendum to the electors on the question of the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, U.S.C.A. A demurrer to the petition was sustained in the lower court and its judgment was affirmed by the intermediate appellate court and the Supreme Court of the State. This Court entertained jurisdiction and, holding that the state court had erred in deciding that the State had authority to require the submission of the ratification to a referendum, reversed the judgment.

In Leser v. Garnett, supra, qualified voters in the State of Maryland brought suit in the state court to have the names of certain women stricken from the list of qualified voters on the ground that the constitution of Maryland limited suffrage to men and that the Nineteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, U.S.C.A. has not been validly ratified. The state court took jurisdiction and the Court of Appeals of the State affirmed the judgment dismissing the petition. We granted certiorari. On the question of our jurisdiction we said:

'The petitioners contended, on several grounds, that the amendment had not become part of the federal Constitution. The trial court overruled the contentions and dismissed the petition. Its judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the state (Md.) (139 Md. 46) 114 A. 840; and the case comes here on writ of error. That writ must be dismissed; but the petition for a writ of certiorari, also duly filed, is granted. The laws of Maryland authorized such a suit by a qualified voter against the board of registry. Whether the Nineteenth Amendment has be come part of the federal Constitution is the question presented for decision'.

And holding that the official notice to the Secretary of State, duly authenticated, of the action of the legislatures of the States, whose alleged ratifications were assailed, was conclusive upon the Secretary of State and that his proclamation accordingly of ratification was conclusive upon the courts, we affirmed the judgment of the state court.

That the question of our jurisdiction in Leser v. Garnett, supra, was decided upon deliberate consideration is sufficiently shown by the fact that there was a motion to dismiss the writ of error for the want of jurisdiction and opposition to the grant of certiorari. The decision is the more striking because on the same day, in an opinion immediately preceding which was prepared for the Court by the same Justice,4 jurisdiction had been denied to a federal court (the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia) of a suit by citizens of the United States, taxpayers and members of a voluntary association organized to support the Constitution, in which it was sought to have the Nineteenth Amendment declared unconstitutional and to enjoin the Secretary of State from proclaiming its ratification and the Attorney General from taking steps to enforce it. Fairchild v. Hughes, 258 U.S. 126, 42 S.Ct. 274, 275, 66 L.Ed. 499. The Court held that the plaintiffs' alleged interest in the question submitted was not such as to afford a basis for the proceeding; that the plaintiffs had only the right possessed by every citizen 'to require that the government be administered according to law and that the public moneys be not wasted' and that this general right did not entitle a private citizen to bring such a suit as the one in question in the federal courts.5 It would be difficult to imagine a situation in which the adequacy of the petitioners' interest to invoke our appellate jurisdiction in Leser v. Garnett, supra, could have been more sharply presented.

The effort to distinguish that case on the ground that the plaintiffs...

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