In re Legislative Adjournment

Decision Date12 August 1893
Citation27 A. 324,18 R.I. 824
CourtRhode Island Supreme Court

The general assembly of Rhode Island met at Newport pursuant to the constitution on the last Tuesday in May, 1893, i. e. May 30th. After the two houses had organized, the house of representatives sent an invitation to the senate to join it in grand committee in order to count and to declare the votes cast for general officers, and to elect general officers in case of a failure to elect by the electors. June 1, 1893, the senate, by resolution, declined this invitation, because, "since the organization of the house, that body, to the knowledge of the members of the senate, had unseated certain of its members, and seated a person not elected, in violation of law, and in defiance of the constitution of the state, thereby changing the character of the grand committee, and that therefore, the house as at present constituted is not the body with which the constitution contemplates that the senate should meet for the purpose named in the resolution." June 1, 1893, the senate voted to adjourn to meet at the statehouse in Providence on the last Tuesday in January, 1894, and transmitted this vote to the house. June 2, 1893, the senate "owing to irreconcilable differences" between it and the house of representatives as to the time and place of adjournment voted to adjourn to meet at the statehouse in Providence on the last Tuesday of January, 1894. It also adopted a resolution certifying to the governor a disagreement between it and the house of representatives as to the time and place of adjournment. The same day, June 2d, the governor adjourned the general assembly to meet at the statehouse in Providence on the last Tuesday in January, 1894. The house of representatives then adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, that the honorable judges of the supreme court be, and are hereby, requested to give to the house of representatives their opinion upon the following questions of law:

"First Has the senate the constitutional power at the May session to pass a resolution of adjournment for a longer period than two days, until after it has joined with the house of representatives in grand committee, request having been made to the senate by the house of representatives to join in such grand committee for the purpose of counting and declaring the votes cast for general officers at the preceding April election?

"Second. In case a resolution of adjournment to the city of Providence to the fourth Tuesday in January following should have been adopted by the senate before joining the house of representatives in grand committee at the annual May session, for the purpose of counting and declaring the votes cast for general officers at the preceding general election, should not have been acted upon by the house of representatives, does such a state of things constitute a 'disagreement' on the subject of adjournment, which confers upon the governor the power to adjourn the general assembly, under section 6, article 7, of the constitution?

"Third. Can the general assembly at the May session be adjourned by the governor under the power conferred upon him by section 6, article 7, of the constitution, until after the two houses have joined in grand committee for the purpose of counting and declaring the votes cast for general officers at the preceding April election?"

This resolution was indorsed: "In House of Representatives, June 2, 1893. Read and passed. John E. Conley, Clerk,"—and was transmitted by the speaker of the house to the court.

Opinion of the Court.

To the Honorable Franklin P. Owen, Speaker of the House of Representatives:

We have received from you a resolution, purporting to have been passed by the house of representatives, propounding certain questions of law upon which we are requested to give our opinion.

Before proceeding to specifically consider said questions, we feel called upon to say that, from the character and tenor thereof, we must infer that, prior to the passage of the resolution submitting said question to us, the general assembly had been prorogued by his excellency, the governor.

This being so, and assuming, as we are bound to do, that the said act of the governor was legal, said resolution was not passed by the house of representatives, and we are not, therefore, called upon to take notice of the same. See article 10, § 3,1 of the constitution. The gravity of the situation, however In which both the legislative and executive branches of our state government are at present placed, of which we cannot fail to take notice, and the importance of the principles and rights involved, are a sufficient warrant, we think, for us to assume the right and duty of replying to said questions.

In doing so we have the honor to say:

First. That under the provisions of article 4, § 9,2 of the constitution, neither house has the power, without the consent of the other, to adjourn for more than two days, nor to any other place than that in which they may be sitting. A condition of things can be imagined, however, which would warrant an adjournment in the circumstances stated in the questions. For example, suppose the house of representatives should unseat or expel 35 members, leaving only a bare quorum, and several towns unrepresented; the constitution clearly implies that the representation of all the towns shall be complete, even though all the members-elect may not attend the session. This implication is found in the fact that members of the preceding body may hold their seats until their successors are qualified to act; and in the further provision of article 8, § 7,3 that where a failure to elect a governor is produced by rejecting the entire vote of any town, city, or ward, a new election shall be ordered. The idea is plain that each town shall be entitled to its full representation and vote, both in an election by the people, or, in case of failure, by the assembly. If, therefore, either house should, by its own action, deprive towns of representation to the extent supposed, we do not think it could be claimed that the other house is bound to go into grand committee with a house so constituted. The supposed case is an extreme one, but it illustrates the principle that each town is entitled to the full representation which the constitution contemplates, and this principle is equally violated, though not to the same extent, if one town is illegally deprived of its full representation. In such cases the assembly may properly adjourn until the vacancies can be filled. Other emergent causes, sufficient to justify an adjournment, may arise, such as an epidemic, after the assembly has convened; a riot, or great public disturbance; the destruction of the statehouse; a palpable violation of the constitution by the expulsion of members contrary to its provisions, whereby the character of the grand committee is changed, and the like. In the latter case, notwithstanding the fact that each house is to be the judge of the qualifications of its own members, a decent self-respect would entitle the other branch to refuse to be a party to such illegal constitution of the grand committee, and to base its action thereon. The question then resolves itself into this: Whether the assembly, by joint resolution, may adjourn for more than two days after both houses are organized, and before counting the votes; for what both bodies may pass by concurrent vote, one may first pass and transmit to the other for concurrence. We regard the provision of the constitution requiring the assembly to count the votes at the May session as in the highest degree imperative. Yet, as we have said, there may be circumstances which would justify, and, indeed, require, the postponement of this duty for more than two days. Hence, as an abstract proposition, we must answer the question in the affirmative. Whether any given state of affairs is one to justify or demand such adjournment, and how long such adjournment should be, are legislative questions, necessarily left to the decision of the body whose action is proposed, and when decided by such body can only be reviewed by the approval or rebuke of the electors.

Second. In reply to the second question, we have to say that whether or not the circumstances stated therein constitute such a "disagreement" as is contemplated under the provision of article 7, § 6,4 of the constitution, is a question which it is not within either the province or power of the judiciary to determine, but which, under the constitution, rests solely in the sound judgment and discretion of the chief executive of the state. Whatever our personal opinions might be as to the propriety of certifying a disagreement under the circumstances stated, an expression of such opinion, after the act is done, with no power to correct it, would amount only to a criticism upon the...

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    ...20 N.Y.S. 293; People v. Parker, 3 Neb. 409, 19 Am. Rep. 634; Vanderheyden v. Young, 11 Johns. (N.Y.) 150; In re Legislature Adjournment, 18 R.I. 824, 27 A. 324, 22 L. R. A. 716; State v. Fair, 35 Wash. 127, 76 P. 731, 102 Am. St. Rep. 897. ¶4 2. Section 9, art. 5, of the Constitution of th......
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    • August 20, 1931 the Governor, and a review of such discretionary act of the Governor should not be done by the courts. In re Legislative Adjournment, 18 R. I. 830, 27 A. 324, 22 L. R. A. 716; Farrelly v. Cole, 60 Kan. 356, 56 P. 492, 497, 44 L. R. A. 464; In re Veto Power-Special Session of General Asse......
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