US Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, Bryant, Attorney General of Arkansas v. Hill
Decided May 22, 1995, 514 US 779


State law cannot impose additional congressional qualification
to the one enumerated in the Constitution.

 

I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Federalism

B. Legal Question Presented:

Did Section 3 of Amendment 73 to the Arkansas Constitution violate the Federal Constitution by creating qualifications for service in the United States Congress ?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Respondent Hill filed this suit in Arkansas state court challenging the constitutionality of 3 of Amendment 73 to the Arkansas Constitution, which prohibits the name of an otherwise-eligible candidate for Congress from appearing on the general election ballot if that candidate has already served three terms in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate.

The trial court held that 3 violated Article I of the Federal Constitution, and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed. A plurality of the latter court concluded that the States have no authority 'to change, add to, or diminish' the age, citizenship, and residency requirements for congressional service enumerated in the Qualifications Clauses, U.S. Const., Art. I, 2, cl. 2, and Art. I, 3, cl. 3, and rejected the argument that Amendment 73 is constitutional because it is formulated as a ballot access restriction rather than an outright disqualification of congressional incumbents."

On certiorari, the US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
J. Winston Bryant, Attorney General of Arkansas, pro se, argued the cause for petitioner in No. 93-1828. With him on the briefs were Jeffrey A. Bell, Deputy Attorney General, Ann Purvis and David R. Raupp, Assistant Attorneys General, Griffin B. Bell, Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Richard F. Hatfield, and Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, against Amendment 73.

Brief of amici curiae urging affirmance in both cases was filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by Kevin J. Hamilton and Steven R. Shapiro, against Amendment 73.
John G. Kester argued the cause for petitioners in No. 93-1456. With him on the briefs was H. William Allen, in support of Amendment 73.

Robert H. Bork, Theodore B. Olson, and Thomas G. Hungar filed briefs for Representative Jay Dickey et al., and Edward W. Warren filed briefs for the Republican Party of Arkansas et al., as respondents under this Court's Rule 12.4, in support of Amendment 73.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

The US Supreme Court held that:

"Section 3 of Amendment 73 to the Arkansas Constitution violates the Federal Constitution.

...The Constitution prohibits States from imposing congressional qualifications additional to those specifically enumerated in its text. Petitioners' argument that States possess control over qualifications as part of the original powers reserved to them by the Tenth Amendment is rejected for two reasons.

First, the power to add qualifications is not within the States' pre-Tenth-Amendment 'original powers,' but is a new right arising from the Constitution itself, and thus is not reserved.

Second, even if the States possessed some original power in this area, it must be concluded that the Framers intended the Constitution to be the exclusive source of qualifications for Members of Congress, and that the Framers thereby 'divested' States of any power to add qualifications.

Permitting individual States to formulate diverse qualifications for their congressional representatives would result in a patchwork that would be inconsistent with the Framers' vision of a uniform National Legislature representing the people of the United States...

State imposition of term limits for congressional service would effect such a fundamental change in the constitutional framework that it must come through a constitutional amendment properly passed under the procedures set forth in Article V. Absent such an amendment, allowing individual States to craft their own congressional qualifications would erode the structure designed by the Framers to form a 'more perfect Union.'"

The US Supreme Court affirmed the Supreme Court of Arkansas judgment.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 4 Con
  • Stevens, J. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Kennedy, A. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Souter, D. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Ginsburg, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Breyer, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Thomas, C. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • O'Connor, S. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Scalia, A. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Arkansas; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 5-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.