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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the appellees)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
Location: Congress
Facts of the Case 

Adam Clayton Powell pecked at his fellow representatives from his unassailable perch in New York's Harlem. Powell had been embroiled in controversy inside and outside Washington. When Powell failed to heed civil proceedings against him in New York, a judge held him in criminal contempt. His problems were only beginning. He won reelection in 1966 but the House of Representatives voted to exclude him.


May the House of Representatives exclude a duly elected member if the member has satisfied the standing requirements of age, citizenship and residence as articulated in Article I Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution?

Decision: 7 votes for Powell, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 6, Paragraph 1: Speech or Debate Clause

No. The Court noted that the proceedings against Powell were intended to exclude and not expel him from the chamber. That is an important distinction to recognize since the House does have the power under Article I, Section 5 to expel members. However, expulsion was not the purpose of the proceedings in this case. After analyzing the Framers' debates on this issue, Chief Justice Warren concluded that since Powell had been lawfully elected by his constituents and since he met the constitutional requirements for membership in the House, that the chamber was powerless to exclude him.

Cite this Page
POWELL v. MCCORMACK. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_138/>.
POWELL v. MCCORMACK, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_138/ (last visited August 26, 2015).
"POWELL v. MCCORMACK," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_138/.