Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon Frothingham v. Same 962

Decision Date04 June 1923
Docket NumberO,Nos. 24,s. 24
Citation67 L.Ed. 1078,262 U.S. 447,43 S.Ct. 597
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS v. MELLON, Secretary of the Treasury, et al. FROTHINGHAM v. SAME. riginal, and 962
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Solicitor General Beck, of Washington, D. C., for Mellon and others.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 448-459 intentionally omitted]

Page 459

Messrs. Alexander Lincoln and J. Weston Allen, both of Boston, Mass., for Massachusetts.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 459-475 intentionally omitted]

Page 475

Messrs. Wm. L. Rawls and George Arnold Frick, both of Baltimore, Md., and William H. Lamar and Lucius Q. C. Lamar, both of Washington, D. C., for Frothingham.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 475-478 intentionally omitted]

Page 478

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases were argued and will be considered and disposed of together. The first is an original suit in this court. The other was brought in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. That court dismissed the bill and its decree was affirmed by the District Court of Appeals. Thereupon the case was brought here by appeal.

Page 479

Both cases challenge the constitutionality of the Act of November 23, 1921, 42 Stat. 224, c. 135, commonly called the Maternity Act. Briefly, it provides for an initial appropriation and thereafter annual appropriations for a period of five years, to be apportioned among such of the several states as shall accept and comply with its provisions, for the purpose of co-operating with them to reduce maternal and infant mortality and protect the health of mothers and infants. It creates a bureau to administer the act in co-operation with state agencies, which are required to make such reports concerning their operations and expenditures as may be prescribed by the federal bureau. Whenever that bureau shall determine that funds have not been properly expended in respect of any state, payments may be withheld.

It is asserted that these appropriations are for purposes not national, but local to the states, and together with numerous similar appropriations constitute an effective means of inducing the states to yield a portion of their sovereign rights. It is further alleged that the burden of the appropriations provided by this act and similar legislation falls unequally upon the several states, and rests largely upon the industrial states, such as Massachusetts; that the act is a usurpation of power not granted to Congress by the Constitution—an attempted exercise of the power of local self-government reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment; and that the defendants are proceeding to carry the act into operation. In the Massachusetts Case it is alleged that the plaintiff's rights and powers as a sovereign state and the rights of its citizens have been invaded and usurped by these expenditures and acts, and that, although the state has not accepted the act, its constitutional rights are infringed by the passage thereof and the imposition upon the state of an illegal and unconstitutional option either to yield to the federal government a part of its reserved rights or

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lose the share which it would otherwise be entitled to receive of the moneys appropriated. In the Frothingham Case plaintiff alleges that the effect of the statute will be to take her property, under the guise of taxation, without due process of law.

We have reached the conclusion that the cases must be disposed of for want of jurisdiction, without considering the merits of the constitutional questions.

In the first case, the state of Massachusetts presents no justiciable controversy, either in its own behalf or as the repres ntative of its citizens. The appellant in the second suit has no such interest in the subject-matter, nor is any such injury inflicted or threatened, as will enable her to sue.

First. The state of Massachusetts in its own behalf, in effect, complains that the act in question invades the local concerns of the state, and is a usurpation of power, viz. the power of local self-government, reserved to the states.

Probably it would be sufficient to point out that the powers of the state are not invaded, since the statute imposes no obligation but simply extends an option which the state is free to accept or reject. But we do not rest here. Under article 3, § 2, of the Constitution, the judicial power of this court extends 'to controversies * * * between a state and citizens of another state' and the court has original jurisdiction 'in all cases * * * in which a state shall be a party.' The effect of this is not to confer jurisdiction upon the court merely because a state is a party, but only where it is a party to a proceeding of judicial cognizance. Proceedings not of a justiciable character are outside the contemplation of the constitutional grant. In Wisconsin v. Pelican Insurance Co., 127 U. S. 265, 289, 8 Sup. Ct. 1370, 1373 (32 L. Ed. 239), Mr. Justice Gray, speaking for the court, said:

'As to 'controversies between a state and citizens of another state': The object of vesting in the courts of

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the United States jurisdiction of suits by one state against the citizens of another was to enable such controversies to be determined by a national tribunal, and thereby to avoid the partiality, or suspicion of partiality, which might exist if the plaintiff state were compelled to resort to the courts of the state of which the defendants were citizens. Federalist, No. 80; Chief Justice Jay, in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419, 475; Story on the Constitution, §§ 1638, 1682. The grant is of 'judicial power,' and was not intended to confer upon the courts of the United States jurisdiction of a suit or prosecution by the one state, of such a nature that it could not, on the settled principles of public and international law, be entertained by the judiciary of the other state at all.'

That was an action brought by the state of Wisconsin to enforce a judgment of one of its own courts for a penalty against a resident of another state, and, in pursuance of the doctrine announced by the language just quoted, this court declined to assume jurisdiction upon the ground that the courts of no country will execute the penal laws of another.

In an earlier case it was held that a proceeding by mandamus by one state to compel the Governor of another to surrender a fugitive from justice was not within the powers of the judicial department, since the duty of the Governor in the premises was in the nature of a moral rather than a legal obligation. Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66, 109, 16 L. Ed. 717. In New Hampshire v. Louisiana and New York v. Louisiana, 108 U. S. 76, 2 Sup. Ct. 176, 27 L. Ed. 656, this court declined to take jurisdiction of actions to enforce payment of the bonds of another state for the benefit of the assignors, citizens of the plaintiff states. In Georgia v. Stanton, 6 Wall. 50, 75, 18 L. Ed. 721, and kindred cases, to which we shall presently refer, jurisdiction was denied in respect of questions of a political or governmental character. On the other hand, jurisdiction was maintained in Texas v. White, 7

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Wall. 700, 19 L. Ed. 227, The State of Florida v. Anderson, 91 U. S. 667, 23 L. Ed. 290, and Alabama v. Burr, 115 U. S. 413, 6 Sup. Ct. 81, 29 L. Ed. 435, because proprietary rights were involved; in Georgia v. Tennessee Copper Co., 206 U. S. 230, 237, 27 Sup. Ct. 618, 51 L. Ed. 1038, 11 Ann. Cas. 488, because the right of dominion of the state over the air and soil within its dominion was affected; in Missouri v. Holland, 252 U. S. 416, 40 Sup. Ct. 382, 64 L. Ed. 641, 11 A. L. R. 984, because, as asserted, there was an invasion, by acts done and threatened, of the quasi sovereign right of the state to regulate the taking of wild game within its borders; and in other cases because boundaries were in dispute. It is not necessary to cite additional cases. The foregoing for present purposes sufficiently indicate the jurisdictional line of demarcation.

What, then, is the nature of the right of the state here asserted and how is it affected by this statute? Reduced to its simplest terms, it is alleged that the statute constitutes an attempt to legislate outside the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution and within the field of local powers exclusively reserved to the states. Nothing is added to the force or effect of this assertion by the further incidental allegations that the ulterior purpose of Congress thereby was to induce the states to yield a portion of their sovereign rights; that the burden of the appropriations falls unequally upon the several states; and that there is imposed upon the states an illegal and unconstitutional option either to yield to the federal government a part of their reserved rights or lose their share of the moneys appropriated. But what burden is imposed upon the states, unequally or otherwise? Certainly there is none, unless it be the burden of taxation, and that falls upon their inhabitants, who are within the taxing power of Congress as well as that of the states where they reside. Nor does the statute require the states to do or to yield anything. If Congress enacted it with the ulterior purpose of tempting them to yield, that purpose may be effectively frustrated by the simple expedient of not yielding.

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In the last analysis, the complaint of the plaintiff state is brought to the naked contention that Congress has usurped the reserved powers of the several states by the mere enactment of the statute, though nothing has been done and nothing is to be done without their consent; and it is plain that that question, as it is thus presented, is political, and not judicial in character, and therefore is not a matter which admits of the exercise of the judicial power.

In Georgia v. Stanton, supra, this court held that a bill to enjoin the Secretary of War, and other officers, from carrying into execution certain acts...

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