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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
(Argued the case for the appellees)
Facts of the Case 

Under Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution, a census must be conducted every ten years and the distribution of Representatives in Congress adjusted to provide proportional representation. The census is designed and carried out by the Secretary of Commerce before the results are forwarded to the President, who determines the number of Representatives each state will receive. In 1990, for only the second time since 1900, the census allocated employees of the Department of Defense who were stationed oversees to the states designated their "homes of record." Massachusetts claimed that this adjustment of the census shifted one Representative from Massachusetts to Washington state. They brought suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Constitution, arguing that the allocation of overseas personnel to their "homes of record" was arbitrary and capricious under the APA standards and did not meet the constitutional requirement of counting the number of people "in each State."


Did the Secretary of Commerce's decision to apportion overseas personnel of the Department of Defense to their "homes of record" for census purposes meet the constitutional requirement of a census counting the number of people "in each State," or was the procedure "arbitrary and capricious" under the Administrative Procedure Act?

Decision: 9 votes for Franklin, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Administrative Procedure, or Administrative Orders Review

The Secretary's decision was not reviewable under the APA because it was not a "final agency action." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in the majority opinion, wrote that only agency decisions that complete the decision-making process and directly affect the party bring suit may be challenged under the APA. In this case the Secretary's decision resulted merely in a set of findings reported to the President that he could ask to have revised using a different formula. Also, the recommendation (and therefore the procedure used to arrive at it) did not directly affect Massachusetts; the President had to take action before the findings would affect the number of Representatives apportioned to the State. The procedure and the findings that resulted from it, therefore, was not a "final agency action" challengeable under the APA, and the actions of the President are also not challengeable under the APA.

Evaluating the Secretary's chosen procedure under Article I Section 2 of the Constitution, however, Justice O'Connor ruled that the decision to include overseas personnel of the Department of Defense was a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution's intent. "The Secretary's judgment does not hamper the underlying constitutional goal of equal representation, but, assuming that employees temporarily stationed abroad have indeed retained their ties to their home states, actually promotes equality," wrote Justice O'Connor.

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FRANKLIN v. MASSACHUSETTS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
FRANKLIN v. MASSACHUSETTS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"FRANKLIN v. MASSACHUSETTS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,