|Colegrove v. Green
64 F.Supp. 632, affirmed.
[ Frankfurter ]
[ Rutledge ]
[ Black ]
Colegrove v. Green
APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE.
I concur in the result. But for the ruling in Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355, I should have supposed that the provisions of the Constitution, Art. I, § 4, that
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for . . . Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations . . . ,
Art. I, § 2, vesting in Congress the duty of apportionment of representatives among the several states "according to their respective Numbers", and Art. I, § 5, making each House the sole judge of the qualifications of its own members, would remove the issues in this case from justiciable cognizance. But, in my judgment, the Smiley case rules squarely to the contrary, save only in the matter of degree.
Moreover, we have but recently been admonished again that it is the very essence of our duty to avoid decision upon grave constitutional questions, especially when this may bring our function into clash with the political departments of the Government, if any tenable alternative ground for disposition of the controversy is presented. [n1]
I was unable to find such an alternative in that instance. There is one, however, in this case. And I think the gravity of the constitutional questions raised so great, together with the possibilities for collision above mentioned, that the admonition is appropriate to be followed here. Other reasons support this view, including the fact [p565] that, in my opinion, the basic ruling and less important ones in Smiley v. Holm, supra, would otherwise be brought into question.
Assuming that that decision is to stand, I think, with Mr. Justice Black, that its effect is to rule that this Court has power to afford relief in a case of this type as against the objection that the issues are not justiciable.
In the later case of Wood v. Broom, 287 U.S. 1, the Court disposed of the cause on the ground that the 1929 Reapportionment Act, 46 Stat. 21, did not carry forward the requirements of the 1911 Act, 37 Stat. 13, and declined to decide whether there was equity in the bill. 287 U.S. 1, 8. But, as the Court's opinion notes, four justices thought the bill should be dismissed for want of equity. [n2]
In my judgment, this complaint should be dismissed for the same reason. Assuming that the controversy is justiciable, I think the cause is of so delicate a character, in view of the considerations above noted, that the jurisdiction should be exercised only in the most compelling circumstances.
As a matter of legislative attention, whether by Congress or the General Assembly, the case made by the complaint is strong. But the relief it seeks pitches this Court into delicate relation to the functions of state officials and Congress, compelling them to take action which heretofore they have declined to take voluntarily, or to accept the alternative of electing representatives from Illinois at large in the forthcoming elections.
The shortness of the time remaining makes it doubtful whether action could, or would, be taken in time to secure for petitioners the effective relief they seek. To force [p566] them to share in an election at large might bring greater equality of voting right. It would also deprive them and all other Illinois citizens of representation by districts which the prevailing policy of Congress commands. 46 Stat. 26, as amended; 2 U.S.C. § 2a.
If the constitutional provisions on which appellants rely give them the substantive rights they urge, other provisions qualify those rights in important ways by vesting large measures of control in the political subdivisions of the Government and the state. There is not, and could not be, except abstractly, a right of absolute equality in voting. At best, there could be only a rough approximation. And there is obviously considerable latitude for the bodies vested with those powers to exercise their judgment concerning how best to attain this, in full consistency with the Constitution.
The right here is not absolute. And the cure sought may be worse than the disease.
I think, therefore, the case is one in which the Court may properly, and should, decline to exercise its jurisdiction. [n3] Accordingly, the judgment should be affirmed, and I join in that disposition of the cause.
1. United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303, concurring opinion at 320:
But the most fundamental principle of constitutional adjudication is not to face constitutional questions, but to avoid them, if at all possible. And so the
Court developed, for its own governance in the cases confessedly within its jurisdiction, a series of rules under which it has avoided passing upon a large part of all the constitutional questions pressed upon it for decision.
2. Want of equity jurisdiction does not go to the power of a court in the same manner as want of jurisdiction over the subject matter. Thus, want of equity jurisdiction may be waived. Matthews v. Rodgers, 284 U.S. 521, 524-525, and cases cited.
The power of a court of equity to act is a discretionary one. . . . Where a federal court of equity is asked to interfere with the enforcement of state laws, it should do so only "to prevent irreparable injury which is clear and imminent."327 U.S. 582, 593, and cases cited.