COLEMAN v. MILLER

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
7
Petitioner 
Rolla W. Coleman et al.
Respondent 
Clarence W. Miller et al.
Decided By 
Reargued: 
Advocates
(argued and reargued the cause for the petitioners)
(argued and reargued the cause for the petitioners)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
(reargued the cause for the respondents)
(Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

In June 1924 the Child Labor Amendment passed both houses of Congress. Under Article V of the Constitution, three-fourths of state legislatures must ratify an amendment passed by Congress before it becomes part of the Constitution. Initially, the Kansas state legislature rejected the amendment, but in January 1937 it was reintroduced before the state senate. Of forty state senators, twenty voted for the amendment and twenty against it. Under Kansas law this left the deciding vote to the lieutenant governor in his capacity as presiding officer of the senate, who voted in favor of passage. After subsequent passage by the Kansas state house, Rolla W. Coleman, a state senator and twenty-three other members of the Kansas legislature filed suit against Clarence W. Miller, the secretary of the state senate challenging the constitutionality of Kansas' ratification process. Further, they claimed that by 1937, thirteen years after Congress initially proposed it, the amendment had "lost vitality" and could no longer be considered.

Question 

Did the participation of the lieutenant governor, the prior rejection by the Kansas state legislature, or the length of time between the proposal and ratification of the Child Labor Amendment conflict with the ratification process laid out by Article V of the U.S. Constitution?

Conclusion 

The Court's 7-2 decision addressed primarily the prior rejection and the length of time between proposal and ratification, and found this question nonjusticiable, meaning it was not the function of the Court to decide the matter. The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, described the question as inherently political, analogous to its 1849 decision in Luther v. Borden, and noted that no legal criteria exists for its determination. Thus, the Court reasoned, Congress alone has authority to decide. The Court also chose not to address the participation of the lieutenant governor, describing itself as "equally divided" on the matter.

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COLEMAN v. MILLER. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1938/1938_7>.
COLEMAN v. MILLER, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1938/1938_7 (last visited July 29, 2014).
"COLEMAN v. MILLER," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 29, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1938/1938_7.