Staples v. State

Decision Date27 October 1922
Docket Number(No. 3865.)
Citation245 S.W. 639
PartiesSTAPLES, Secretary of State, et al. v. STATE ex rel. KING et al.
CourtTexas Supreme Court

Quo warranto by the State of Texas on the relation of C. E. King and others against S. L. Staples, Secretary of State, and others. From an order granting a temporary injunction, the defendants appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals, which court certified questions to the Supreme Court. Questions answered.

See, also, 244 S. W. 1064.

W. A. Keeling, Atty. Gen., and Jno. C. Wall and L. C. Sutton, Asst. Attys. Gen., for Staples.

Hart & Patterson, of Austin, and Phillips, Trammell & Caldwell, of Fort Worth, for Mayfield.

David B. Trammell, of Fort Worth, for Official Board of Tarrant County.

W. W. Nelms, of Dallas, J. S. Callicutt, of Corsicana, Luther Nickels, of Dallas, and Richard Mays, of Corsicana, for King and others.


Appellees C. E. King, P. C. Short, and L. E. McGhee brought this suit in the district court of Navarro county to prevent the name of Earle B. Mayfield from appearing on the official ballot in the approaching general election, as the nominee of the Democratic party for the office of United States Senator. They brought the suit in a proceeding by quo warranto in the name of the state of Texas upon their relation, and in their own names, under section 9 of chapter 88 of the Acts of the 36th Legislature (Vernon's Ann. Civ. St. Supp. 1922, art. 3174¼b). They alleged that said Mayfield had violated provisions of said chapter 88 in securing the nomination, in that he had expended more than the legal limit of $10,000 as therein provided may be lawfully spent in securing such nomination, and alleged other violations of said chapter.

Permission having been obtained from the district judge of the Thirteenth district, the Honorable Hawkins Scarbrough, the petition was filed. Also a temporary injunction was issued restraining the appellant Secretary of State and other election officers from certifying or placing the name of said Mayfield upon the official ballot.

Appellants appealed from the order granting said temporary injunction to the Court of Civil Appeals for the Fifth supreme judicial district at Dallas, and the case is here upon certified questions from that court. By order of the district judge, the temporary injunction remained in full force pending appeal.

The only allegation of any right or interest in the subject-matter of the suit, in appellees' petition personal to them, is that of citizenship. It is nowhere shown in the petition that any county attorney or district attorney of the state or the Attorney General consented to or joined in the suit.

For the sake of brevity, we will restate the questions certified as follows:

(1) Were the appellees possessed of the legal capacity, and have they the right to institute and maintain this suit under section 9 of chapter 88 of the Acts of the 36th Legislature?

(2) If so, is said section 9, in so authorizing and empowering said appellees to bring and maintain this suit, in either their own names or in the name of the state, in violation of section 21, art. 5, and section 22, art. 4, of the Constitution of Texas?

The jurisdiction of the district court of Navarro county or of the district judge in this case is dependent upon the answers to these questions. The answers to these questions do not in any sense bear upon the merits of the fact issues raised in appellees' pleadings, but only upon their right to bring and maintain the suit in their individual capacities, or in behalf of the state.

Chapter 88 is —

"An act to prevent the control of primary elections by the use of money, and to regulate and limit the expenditure of money to promote or defeat the candidacy of persons for nomination for office in primary elections in this state, and providing penalties for violation of this act, and declaring an emergency."

Section 9 of chapter 88 reads as follows:

"Sec. 9. If any candidate shall knowingly violate any of the provisions of this act or shall knowingly permit or assent to the violation of any provision of this act by any campaign manager or assistant campaign manager or other person, he shall thereby forfeit his right to have his name placed upon the primary ballot or if nominated in the primary election, to have his name placed on the official ballot at the general election, and proceedings by quo warranto to enforce the provisions of this section or to determine the right of any candidate(s) alleged to have violated any of the provisions of this act to have his name placed on the primary ballot or the right of any nominee alleged to have violated any of the provisions of this act to have his name placed upon the official ballot, for the general election may be instituted at the suit of any citizen in the district court of any county, the citizens of which are entitled to vote for or against any candidate who may be charged in such proceedings with having violated the provisions of this act. All such proceedings so instituted shall be advanced and summarily heard and disposed of by both the trial and appellate courts."

Section 22, art. 4, of the Constitution, provides that the Attorney General of the state shall represent the state in certain causes, and section 21, art. 5, of the Constitution, among other provisions, provides:

"The county attorneys shall represent the state in all cases in the district and inferior courts in their respective counties."

It also makes provision for the duties of the district attorneys.

It is admitted by appellees that they have no pecuniary interest in this suit which is not common to all other citizens of the state.

Appellant Secretary of State Staples, through the Attorney General, maintains that the section is valid, and that under its proper construction appellees are not entitled to bring and maintain this suit, because not participated in by a properly authorized officer or agent of the state, to wit, any county attorney or district attorney or the state's Attorney General.

Appellants Mayfield and the Tarrant county election board contend that said section, if construed as contended for by appellees, is void and is in violation of section 21, art. 5, and section 22, art. 4, of the state Constitution, in that it authorizes private citizens, without interest in the law's enforcement different from that of every other citizen, to bring and prosecute a quo warranto suit without the participation of a county attorney or district attorney or the Attorney General.

The appellees King et al. earnestly insist that the section is valid and constitutional and creates the legal right in any citizen to bring and prosecute the specified suit for himself and in his own behalf, without having any interest in the subject-matter of the suit different from all other citizens of the state, and without the consent or participation of the county attorney or district attorney or Attorney General, or of any other authorized officer of the state provided by law; and that the Legislature thus created in each citizen a private right or interest, even though none existed before, and that this private right or interest could be maintained in a proceeding by quo warranto, and that the people at large, that is, the state as a sovereignty, is not interested in the subject-matter or result of the litigation.

In obedience to the command of the statute that the case be "advanced and summarily heard and disposed of by both the trial and appellate courts," the full court being in perfect accord in the decision herein, we will, without extensive elaboration, state the principles upon which our decision is based. The principles that control the case are fundamental and well established, and are supported by usage of long standing, and by an unbroken line of decisions in this and other jurisdictions.

The important expressions in section 9 are, "proceedings by quo warranto," and "at the suit of any citizen."

The authority conferred upon "any citizen" must be construed and applied in connection with the authorized "proceedings by quo warranto." The proceeding by quo warranto had an established and well-known meaning and application in our jurisprudence, and it must have been in the light of this well-known meaning, as established by the courts of this state and of other jurisdictions, that the Legislature enacted section 9.

Quo warranto proceedings are those through which the state acts to protect itself and the good of the public generally, through the duly chosen agents of the state as provided by the Constitution of the state and under the laws thereof, though sometimes brought at the instance of, and for the benefit of, a private individual who may have a special interest. This being the fact, and this being the setting, we must give effect to the statute as it reads in the light of the well-known meaning of the term "proceedings by quo warranto" at the time the Legislature used it in this section of the statute, and construe the phrase "at the suit of any citizen" in connection therewith. Thus ascertaining the intent of the Legislature, it is clear that section 9 means that at the instance of, or on solicitation of, any citizen, proceedings by information in the nature of quo warranto may be instituted, through the proper officer of the state, to determine the right of any candidate charged with a violation of the act to have his name placed on the official ballot. In so construing this section, it is not in conflict with section 21, art. 5, and section 22, art. 4, of the Constitution, in which it is provided that the county attorneys and district attorneys and the Attorney General shall represent the state.

It must be presumed that the Legislature desired and intended to enact a constitutional law. It will be presumed to have enacted this section in the light of section 21, art....

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