Michigan Farm Bureau v. Hare (State Report Title: Michigan Farm Bureau v. Secretary of State), 13

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; ADAMS
Citation151 N.W.2d 797,379 Mich. 387
PartiesMICHIGAN FARM BUREAU et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. James M. HARE et al., Defendants and Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 13,13
Decision Date21 July 1967
Bernard J. Fieger and Tom Downs, Detroit, William Wilkinson, Lansing, of counsel for plaintiffs and appellants, by Tom Downs, Detroit

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., Lansing, for defendants-appellees.

MacLean, Seaman & Laing, Lansing, for Michigan Retailers Assn. and Citizens Committee for Daylight Saving Time Referendum.

Before the Entire Bench (except DETHMERS, C.J.)


By order for by-pass and summary hearing entered May 23 last the Court has concerned its appellate function with the reserved referendary power and procedure appearing in the first two paragraphs of section 9 of article II of the

Constitution of 1963. See margin below. 1 It has approached the primary question thus far determined (order of June 9, 1967; appendix) with attention concentrated from the beginning on the all important duty of the judiciary when constitutional provisions are brought up for interpretation and application. That duty is to ascertain as best the Court may the general understanding and therefore the uppermost or dominant purpose of the people when they approved the provision or [379 Mich. 391] provisions thus brought up. To quote Mr. Justice Story

'Constitutions are not designed for metaphysical or logical subtleties, for niceties of expression, for critical propriety, for elaborate shades of meaning, or for the exercise of philosophical acuteness or judicial research. They are instruments of a practical nature, founded on the common business of human life, adapted to common wants, designed for common use, and fitted for common understandings. The people make them, the people adopt them, the people must be supposed to read them, with the help of common sense, and cannot be presumed to admit in them any recondite meaning or any extraordinary gloss.' (1 Story, Constitution (5th ed), § 451, p 345.)';

and Mr. Justice Cooley (from May v. Topping, 65 W.Va. 656, 660, 64 S.E. 848):

'A Constitution is made for the people and by the people. The interpretation that should be given it is that which reasonable minds, the great mass of the people themselves, would give it; 'for as the Constitution does not derive its force from the convention which framed, but from the people who ratified it, the intent to be arrived at is that of the people, and it is not to be supposed that they have looked for any dark or abstruse meaning in the words employed, But rather that they have accepted them in the sense most obvious to the common understanding, and ratified the instrument in the belief that that was the sense designed to be conveyed.' Cooley's Const.Lim. 81.'

Plaintiffs contend under the two mentioned paragraphs that the aforesaid reserved power cannot 'properly' be invoked as against a legislative measure given immediate effect until end of the legislative session during which that measure was enacted and [379 Mich. 392] given such effect. The defendants, supported by the attorney general, stand for the contrary view. This is the primary question to which we have referred.

The attorney general advises, in his brief:

'On April 13, 1966 the United States Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act of 1966, being Public Law 89--387 of the 89th Congress. 2 This act imposes uniform daylight saving time upon all states during the period beginning the last Sunday in April of each year and terminating on the last Sunday in October of each

year; but Section 3(a) of said congressional act specifically provides that

"* * * except that any State may by law exempt itself from the provisions of this subsection providing for the advancement of time, but only if such law provides that the entire State (including all political subdivisions thereof) shall observe the standard time otherwise applicable under such sections 261--264, as so modified, during such period.'

'The Michigan legislature enacted and the Governor signed Senate Bill No. 1 which is denoted Act 6, Public Acts of 1967, giving said act an immediately effective date of March 24, 1967.

'Following enactment of Act 6, PA 1967, certain individuals and groups publicly announced their plans to circulate a referendum petition with the intention of filing such petition as soon as a sufficient number of signatures had been obtained. These individuals and groups did, in fact, circulate such referendum petition and filed same with the State Board of Canvassers.'

A number of warring rules for construction of those pivotal words, 'within 90 days following the [379 Mich. 393] final adjournment of the legislative session at which the law was enacted.', are urged upon us. It is said on the one hand that 'strict' construction is in order and that, if the worded purpose is at all doubtful, it should be resolved 'in favor of the legislative process and against the referendum process.' On the other, citing authority that the word 'within' as employed in statutes providing time for the taking of legal action means 'not beyond,' or 'not later than,' or 'any time before.' 3 it is alleged that 'within' does not fix the first point of time; that it does fix the limit beyond which action may not be taken.

The issue is not without difficulty. There is nevertheless an overriding rule of constitutional construction which requires that the commonly understood referral process, forming as it does a specific power the people themselves have expressly reserved, be saved if possible as against conceivable if not likely evasion or parry by the legislature. That rule is, in substance, that no court should so construe a clause or section of a constitution as to impede or defeat its generally understood ends when another construction thereof, equally concordant with the words and sense of that clause or section, will guard and enforce those ends. The rule seems to have originated with the handing down of Prigg v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. 539, 612, 10 L.Ed. 1060:

[379 Mich. 394] 'How, then, are we to interpret the language of the clause? The true answer is, in such a manner, as, consistently with the words, shall fully and completely effectuate the whole objects of it. If you one mode of interpretation the right must become shadowy and unsubstantial, and without any remedial power adequate to the end, and by another mode it will attain its just end and secure its manifest purpose, it would seem, upon principles of reasoning, absolutely irresistible, that the latter ought to prevail. No Court of justice can be authorized so to construe any clause of the Constitution as to defeat its obvious ends, when another construction, equally accordant with the words and sense thereof, will enforce and protect them.'

and accords fully with Mr. Justice Cooley's regularly quoted declaration in People ex rel. Bay City v. State Treasurer, 23 Mich. 499, 506:

'Constitutions do not change with the varying tides of public opinion and desire; the will of the people therein recorded is the same inflexible law until changed by their own deliberative action; and it cannot be permissible to the courts that in order to aid evasions and circumventions, they shall subject these instruments, which in the main only undertake to lay down broad general principles, to a literal and technical construction, as if they were great public enemies standing in the way of progress, and the duty of every good citizen was to get around their provisions whenever practicable, and give them a damaging thrust whenever convenient.'

The construction claimed here by plaintiffs would permit outright legislative defeat, not just hindrance, of the people's reserved right to test, by referendary process, the exemption made by Act No. 6 or any like immediate-effect exemption the legislature might enact come the showers of April [379 Mich. 395] each year hereafter. To be specific: With such construction announced judicially, the legislature would stand free to avoid effective referral of this and future legislative exemptions under aforesaid 3(a) simply by repealing Act No. 6 next November, then by enacting another immediate effect act of exemption next spring and then by another repealer in the late fall, and so on through the years. For that particular reason plaintiffs' proposed interpretation of the first two paragraphs of section 9 has been rejected and that proposed by defendants and by the attorney general has been accepted. Our order of June 9 attests that result. We elaborate:

Should we adopt plaintiffs' procedural view of section 9, what would prevent more or less regular thwart of the referral process, at will of the legislature? The legislative power of Michigan having been committed generally to the senate and house by section 1 of article III of the Constitution, what then of warranted worth would be left in section 9 beyond, of course, the slower and more involved initiatory process? Quite unintentionally to be sure, plaintiffs are requesting that the judicial branch emasculate the reserved referral process. They are a bit too literal as they view section 9, at least too much for that necessary 'play' in the joints Mr. Justice Holmes once described (Bain Peanut Co. v. Pinson, 282 U.S. 499, 501, 51 S.Ct. 228, 229, 75 L.Ed. 482):

'The interpretation of constitutional principles must not be too literal. We must remember that the machinery of government would not work if it were not allowed a little play in its joints.'

We are impressed by what seems to be the only pinpointed and wholly unanimous authority extant, that is, McBride v. Kerby, 32 Ariz. 515, 260 P. 435. [379 Mich. 396] Reasoning from a Constitution which corresponds in pertinent essence with ours, the supreme court of Arizona concluded in McBride that:

'Nowhere in the Constitution can be found even a suggestion that a referendum...

To continue reading

Request your trial
39 cases
  • Mays v. Governor, No. 157335
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 29 Julio 2020
    ...power is in the people, and "[a] Constitution is made for the people and by the people." Michigan Farm Bureau v Secretary of State, 379 Mich 387, 391; 151 NW2d 797 (1967) (quoting Cooley, Constitutional Limitations [6th ed], p 81). The Michigan Constitution is a limitation on the plenary po......
  • Nat. Wildlife Fed. v. Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co., Docket No. 121890. Calendar No. 5.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 30 Julio 2004
    ...in order to be understood, "the exercise of philosophical acuteness or judicial research." Michigan Farm Bureau v. Secretary of State, 379 Mich. 387, 391, 151 N.W.2d 797 (1967), quoting 1 Story, Constitution (5th ed.), § 451, p. We are mindful that the people expect and are entitled that th......
  • Mich Citizens v. Nestlé Waters, Docket No. 130802.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 25 Julio 2007
    ...natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction. 18. See, e.g., Michigan Farm Bureau v. Secretary of State, 379 Mich. 387, 393, 151 N.W.2d 797 (1967) (addressing principles of constitutional 19. See Ray v. Mason Co. Drain Comm'r, 393 Mich. 294, 305, 224 N.W.2d 883 ......
  • Phillips v. Snyder, 15-2394
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 12 Septiembre 2016
    ...Furthermore, Michigan would have been allowed to pass PA 436 even if it were identical to PA 4. See Michigan Farm Bureau v. Hare , 379 Mich. 387, 151 N.W.2d 797, 802 (1967). In any event, the fact that a legislature passes new legislation similar in import to legislation previously vetoed b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 98 No. 3, February 2021
    • 1 Febrero 2021
    ...law permits, with municipal governments."). (47.) Kanagur v. Hare, 284 F. Supp. 426 (W.D. Mich. 1968). (48.) Mich. Farm Bureau v. Hare, 151 N.W.2d 797 (Mich. 1967). Rut see Whitmer v. House, 426 P.2d 100 (Kan. 1967) (holding that state court is an inappropriate forum to adjudicate the Unifo......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT