State ex rel. Thornburg v. Huegle

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation135 Iowa 100,112 N.W. 234
Decision Date10 June 1907


Appeal from District Court, Polk County; W. H. McHenry, Judge.

Action to test the defendant Huegle's title and right to hold the office of county superintendent of schools in and for Polk county for the term beginning January 7, 1907. From a judgment dismissing the petition, plaintiff appeals. Reversed and remanded.Bowen, Brockett & Weldy, Halloran & Starkey, and S. G. Van Auken, for appellant.

Carr, Hewitt, Parker & Wright, and S. F. Prouty, for appellees.


Relator was the county superintendent of Polk county for the term commencing January, 1904, and ending in January, 1907, or when his successor was elected and qualified. At the regular election held in the year 1906 respondent Jennie S. Huegle was elected to said office. Plaintiff brought this action to test her right to said office, and secured a writ of injunction against the other defendants, who were members of the board of supervisors, restraining them from approving her bond and from inducting her into office. The claim made then and now is that said respondent was and is ineligible to hold the said office because she does not hold a first-grade certificate, a state certificate, or a life diploma as required by section 2, c. 122, p. 87, Acts 31st Gen. Assem. Defendants denied that respondent was disqualified, and alleged that she held a first-grade certificate issued by the county superintendent of Lucas county, Iowa, on the 30th day of August, 1906. The case was tried to the court, resulting in a dissolution of the injunction and a dismissal of the petition. Relator appeals.

The question involves a construction of the statutes of the state, and we are in no manner concerned with the policy or apparent justice or injustice thereof. It is within the exclusive province of the Legislature to fix the qualifications for public office, and the courts have no concern therewith except to see that the statutes are observed. State v. Covington, 29 Ohio St. 102;Darrow v. People, 8 Colo. 417, 8 Pac. 661. Moreover, the Legislature, in the absence of constitutional prohibition, may at pleasure alter or add to the qualifications for office. Mechem on Public Officers, § 97. And an office created by statute may be abolished, the term increased, or diminished, the manner of filling it changed by will of the Legislature at any time even during the term for which the then incumbent was elected or appointed. It may also declare the office vacant, or abolish the office by leaving it devoid of duties. Bryan v. Cattell, 15 Iowa, 538;Atty. Gen. v. Squires, 14 Cal. 13;Conner v. New York, 5 N. Y. 285. The necessary qualifications must exist either at the time of the election or at the time of entering upon the duties of the office, as the statutes may indicate or direct. State v. Holman, 58 Minn. 219, 59 N. W. 1006. Generally speaking, if the words used are “eligible to office” or the equivalent, they mean eligibility at the time of entering upon the office, and not at the time of election. People v. Hamilton, 24 Ill. App. 609;Smith v. Moore, 90 Ind. 294; Privett v. Bickford, 26 Kan. 52, 40 Am. Rep. 301; State v. Smith, 14 Wis. 497;Kirkpatrick v. Brownfield, 97 Ky. 558, 31 S. W. 137, 29 L. R. A. 703, 53 Am. St. Rep. 422;Demaree v. Scates, 50 Kan. 275, 32 Pac. 1123, 20 L. R. A. 97, 34 Am. St. Rep. 113;Shuck v. State, 136 Ind. 63, 35 N. E. 993;People v. Leonard, 73 Cal. 230, 14 Pac. 853. But, whichever view be taken of this matter, the statute we have now to consider went into force and effect October 1, 1906, and provides that the county superintendent shall be the holder of a first-grade certificate as provided in that act or of a state certificate or of a life diploma. So that the qualifications required were in force both at the time of election and at the time when the term of office began. We are now brought to the question: Was respondent qualified at the time of her election, or, rather when she entered upon the office to which she was elected? The act fixing the qualifications to which we have already referred was passed and approved April 5, 1906, and by its terms was to go into effect October 1, 1906. By its terms it provided what a first-grade certificate was under the act; the provision being as follows: Sec. 7. First Grade Certificate--Renewal. Applicants who have taught successfully for at least thirty-six weeks, or who have completed a course of study in an approved college or normal school and whose examination entitles them to the first grade certificate, shall receive the same for a term of three years from the date thereof, and such certificate shall be renewable without examination provided the applicant shall show by examination or otherwise that at least one line of professional inquiry has been successfully conducted during the life of the certificate, it being made the duty of the board to forward with each certificate subject to renewal, outlines setting forth various lines of professional study. It is provided further that each application for renewal shall be accompanied by such proof of successful experience and professional spirit as the educational board of examiners may require.” Acts 1906, p. 88, c. 122.

The examination referred to is provided for in section 4 of the act, and is to be under the supervision of an educational board of examiners created by the act. Manifestly respondent did not hold that kind of certificate. The act also says that one holding a state certificate is also eligible. This relates to certificates issued by the state board of educational examiners under the provisions of sections 2629, 2630, and 2631 of the Code, as amended by acts of the Twenty-Eighth Gen. Assem. (page 73, cc. 95, 96) and the Twenty-Ninth Gen. Assem. (page 71, c. 114). It is very clear that respondent did not hold a state certificate either at the time she was elected or subsequently. No one claims...

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