Doremus v. Board of Education of Borough of Hawthorne, No. 9

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJACKSON
PartiesDOREMUS et al. v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF BOROUGH OF HAWTHORNE et al
Docket NumberNo. 9
Decision Date03 March 1952

342 U.S. 429
72 S.Ct. 394
96 L.Ed. 475
DOREMUS et al.

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF BOROUGH OF HAWTHORNE et al.

No. 9.
Argued Jan. 31, 1952.
Decided March 3, 1952.

Mr. Heyman Zimel, Paterson, N.J., for appellants.

Messrs. Henry F. Schenk, Theodore D. Parsons, Trenton, N.J., for appellee.

Page 430

Mr. Justice JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

This action for a declaratory judgment on a question of federal constitutional law was prosecuted in the state courts of New Jersey. It sought to declare invalid a statute of that State which provides for the reading, without comment, of five verses of the Old Testament at the opening of each public-school day. N.J.Rev.Stat., 1937, 18:14—77, N.J.S.A. No issue was raised under the State Constitution, but the Act was claimed to violate the clause of the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution prohibiting establishment of religion.

No trial was held and we have no findings of fact, but the trial court denied relief on the merits on the basis of the pleadings and a pretrial conference, of which the record contains meager notes. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, on appeal, rendered its opinion that the Act does not violate the Federal Constitution, in spite of jurisdic-

Page 431

tional doubts which it pointed out but condoned as follows: 'No one is before us asserting that his religious practices have been interfered with or that his right to worship in accordance with the dictates of his conscience has been suppressed. No religious sect is a party to the cause. No representative of, or spokesman for, a religious body has attacked the statute here or below. One of the plaintiffs is 'a citizen and taxpayer'; the only interest he asserts is just that and in those words, set forth in the complaint and not followed by specification or proof. It is conceded that he is a citizen and a taxpayer, but it is not charged and it is neither conceded nor proved that the brief interruption in the day's schoolding caused by compliance with the statute adds cost to the school expenses or varies by more than an incomputable scintilla the economy of the day's work. The other plaintiff, in addition to being a citizen and a taxpayer, has a daughter, aged seventeen, who is a student of the school. Those facts are asserted, but, as in the case of the co-plaintiff, no violated rights are urged. It is not charged that the practice required by the statute conflicts with the convictions of either mother or daughter. Apparently the sole purpose and the only function of plaintiffs is that they shall assume the role of actors so that there may be a suit which will invoke a court ruling upon the constitutionality of the statute. Respondents urge that under the circumstances the question is moot as to the plaintiffs-appellants and that our declaratory judgment statute may not properly be used in justification of such a proceeding. Cf. New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Parsons, 3 N.J. 235, 69 A.2d 875; Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon (1923), 262 U.S. 447, at page 488, 43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078, at page 1085. The point has substance but we have nevertheless concluded to dispose of the ap-

Page 432

peal on its merits.' 1950, 5 N.J. 435, 439, 75 A.2d 880, 881—882.

Upon appeal to this Court, we considered appellants' jurisdictional statement but, instead of nothing probable jurisdiction, ordered that 'Further consideration of the question of the jurisdiction of this Court in this case and of the motion to dismiss or affirm is postponed to the hearing of the case on the merits.' On further study, the doubts thus indicated ripen into a conviction that we should dismiss the appeal without reaching the constitutional question.

The view of the facts taken by the court below, though it is entitled to respect, does not bind us and we may make an independent examination of the record. Doing so, we find nothing more substantial in support of jurisdiction than did the court below. Appellants, apparently seeking to bring themselves within Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education of School Dist. No. 71, 333 U.S. 203, 68 S.Ct. 461, 92 L.Ed. 648, assert a challenge to the Act in two capacities—one as parent of a child subject to it, and both as taxpayers burdened because of its requirements.

In support of the parent-and-school-child relationship, the complaint alleged that appellant Klein was parent of a seventeen-year-old pupil in Hawthorne High School, where Bible reading was practiced pursuant to the Act. That is all. There is no...

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344 practice notes
  • Barrows v. Jackson, No. 517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953
    ...taxpayer sought to challenge a federal statute in the enforcement of which federal revenues were applied); Doremus v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 429, 434, 72 S.Ct. 394, 397, 96 L.Ed. 475 (state taxpayer unable to show that there was 'a measurable appropriation or disbursement of * * * fun......
  • Frissell v. Rizzo, No. 78-1863
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 20, 1979
    ...Cf. Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24, 36-40, 94 S.Ct. 2655, 41 L.Ed.2d 551 (1974) (mootness). But see Doremus v. Bd. of Education, 342 U.S. 429, 72 S.Ct. 394, 96 L.Ed. 475 (1952); Tileston v. Ullman, 318 U.S. 44, 63 S.Ct. 493, 87 L.Ed. 603 (1943). In a federal trial court, however, standi......
  • American Atheists, Inc. v. Detroit Downtown Development Authority, No. 07-2398.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 28, 2009
    ...taxpayer lack standing, for in that case he will have suffered no "direct dollars-and-cents injury." Doremus v. Bd. of Educ. of Hawthorne, 342 U.S. 429, 433-35, 72 S.Ct. 394, 96 L.Ed. 475 (1952); compare Pelphrey v. Cobb County, 547 F.3d 1263, 1280-81 (11th Cir.2008) (municipal taxpayers ha......
  • Murray v. City of Austin, Tex., No. 90-8561
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 4, 1991
    ...based upon his being a municipal taxpayer. See, e.g., Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 482-83, 102 S.Ct. at 764-65; Doremus v. Board of Educ., 342 U.S. 429, 434, 72 S.Ct. 394, 397, 96 L.Ed. 475 (1952). And, although Murray alleges sufficient injury to confer standing to challenge the insignia as v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
344 cases
  • Barrows v. Jackson, No. 517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1953
    ...taxpayer sought to challenge a federal statute in the enforcement of which federal revenues were applied); Doremus v. Board of Education, 342 U.S. 429, 434, 72 S.Ct. 394, 397, 96 L.Ed. 475 (state taxpayer unable to show that there was 'a measurable appropriation or disbursement of * * * fun......
  • Frissell v. Rizzo, No. 78-1863
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • February 20, 1979
    ...Cf. Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24, 36-40, 94 S.Ct. 2655, 41 L.Ed.2d 551 (1974) (mootness). But see Doremus v. Bd. of Education, 342 U.S. 429, 72 S.Ct. 394, 96 L.Ed. 475 (1952); Tileston v. Ullman, 318 U.S. 44, 63 S.Ct. 493, 87 L.Ed. 603 (1943). In a federal trial court, however, standi......
  • American Atheists, Inc. v. Detroit Downtown Development Authority, No. 07-2398.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 28, 2009
    ...taxpayer lack standing, for in that case he will have suffered no "direct dollars-and-cents injury." Doremus v. Bd. of Educ. of Hawthorne, 342 U.S. 429, 433-35, 72 S.Ct. 394, 96 L.Ed. 475 (1952); compare Pelphrey v. Cobb County, 547 F.3d 1263, 1280-81 (11th Cir.2008) (municipal taxpayers ha......
  • Murray v. City of Austin, Tex., No. 90-8561
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 4, 1991
    ...based upon his being a municipal taxpayer. See, e.g., Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 482-83, 102 S.Ct. at 764-65; Doremus v. Board of Educ., 342 U.S. 429, 434, 72 S.Ct. 394, 397, 96 L.Ed. 475 (1952). And, although Murray alleges sufficient injury to confer standing to challenge the insignia as v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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