Coleman v. Miller 307 U.S. 433 (1939)

Author:Ward E. Y. Elliott

Page 441

The lieutenant governor of Kansas had broken a tie vote in the Kansas senate to endorse a CHILD LABOR AMENDMENT, which Kansas had previously rejected. The losing senators, opponents of the amendment, challenged the vote because the lieutenant governor was not a part of the state "legislature" within the meaning of Article V and because the previous rejection of the amendment, plus the lapse of thirteen years, had cost the amendment its "vitality."

Over objections from dissenting Justices PIERCE BUTLER and JAMES C. MCREYNOLDS that the lapse of time issue had not been briefed or argued, Chief Justice CHARLES EVANS HUGHES declined to hear the challenge, citing the ratification of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT and arguing that efficacy of ratification?both as to lapse of time and as to the prior rejection?was a POLITICAL QUESTION, requiring "appraisal of a great variety of relevant conditions, political, social, and economic," not "within the appropriate range of EVIDENCE receivable in a court." Dominant considerations in political questions, he noted, are the "appropriateness of final action" by the elected branch and the "lack of satisfactory criteria for judicial determination."

Justice HUGO L. BLACK, writing for four concurring Justices, thought that Hughes had not sufficiently emphasized Congress's "exclusive power to control submission of constitutional amendments." An evenly divided Court expressed no...

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