Lane v. Wilson
Argued March three, 1939
Decided May 22, 1939
307 U.S. 268
1. A negro who's denied with the aid of kingdom registration officers the proper of registration, prerequisite to the right to vote, under coloration of a state registration statute which, in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, works discrimination towards the colored race, has a proper of action inside the federal court docket for damages in opposition to such officials underneath R.S.1979; eight U.S.C. § 43. Giles v. Harris, 189 U. S. 475, distinguished. P. 307 U. S. 274.
2. This lodge to the federal court docket can be had with out first hard the judicial (distinguished from administrative) treatments of the country courts. P. 307 U. S. 274.
three. Oklahoma statutes made registration prerequisite to vote casting, and furnished generally that each one citizens qualified to vote in 1916 who failed to check in between April 30 and May eleven, 1916, need to be invariably disfranchised, excepting folks who voted in 1914. The effect became that white those who had been on the lists in 1914 in virtue of the availability of the Oklahoma Constitution called the "Grandfather Clause" which this Court in 1915 adjudged unconstitutional, Guinn v. United States, 238 U. S. 347, have been entitled to vote; while coloured people saved from registering and vote casting by using that clause would stay forever disfranchised unless they carried out for registration in the course of the limited duration of now not greater than 12 days. Held repugnant to the Fifteenth Amendment. P. 307 U. S. 275.
98 F.2nd 980, reversed.
CERTIORARI, 305 U.S. 591, to study the affirmance of a judgment, on a verdict directed for defendants in an motion for damages, under R.S.1979.
Page 307 U. S. 269
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
1. A negro who is denied by way of country registration officials the right of registration, prerequisite to the right to vote, beneath color of a kingdom registration statute which, in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, works discrimination in opposition to the colored race, has a proper of action inside the federal court docket for damages against such officials beneath R.S.1979; 8 U.S.C. § 43. Giles v. Harris, 189 U. S. 475, distinguished. P. 307 U. S. 274.
2. This resort to the federal court docket may be had with out first onerous the judicial (distinguished from administrative) treatments of the country courts. P. 307 U. S. 274.
three. Oklahoma statutes made registration prerequisite to voting, and provided typically that every one citizens certified to vote in 1916 who failed to check in between April 30 and May eleven, 1916, should be continually disfranchised, excepting people who voted in 1914. The effect become that white folks that were at the lists in 1914 in distinctive feature of the availability of the Oklahoma Constitution known as the "Grandfather Clause" which this Court in 1915 adjudged unconstitutional, Guinn v. United States, 238 U. S. 347, were entitled to vote; whereas colored humans saved from registering and voting by means of that clause would continue to be forever disfranchised unless they applied for registration throughout the constrained period of not more than 12 days. Held repugnant to the Fifteenth Amendment. P. 307 U. S. 275.
ninety eight F.2d 980, reversed.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER added the opinion of the Court.
The case is right here on certiorari to study the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit asserting that of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, entered upon a directed verdict in prefer of the defendants. The motion was one for $5,000 damages added beneath § 1979 of the Revised Statutes (8 U.S.C. § forty three), by way of a coloured citizen claiming discriminatory remedy as a result of electoral rules of Oklahoma, in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. Certiorari became granted, 305 U.S. 591, due to the significance of the query and an asserted warfare with the selection in Guinn v. United States, 238 U. S. 347.
The constitution below which Oklahoma become admitted into the Union regulated the suffrage via Article III, wherein its "certified electors" have been to be "citizens of the State . . . who are over the age of twenty-one years" with disqualifications inside the case of felons, paupers and lunatics. Soon after its admission, the suffrage provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution were radically amended via the addition of a literacy test from which white citizens have been in effect relieved through the operation of a "grandfather clause." The clause turned into bothered down by way of this Court as violative of the prohibition towards discrimination "as a consequence of race, colour or previous situation of servitude" of the Fifteenth Amendment. This outlawry came about on June 21, 1915. In the interim, the Oklahoma general election of 1914 were based totally at the
Page 307 U. S. 270
offending "grandfather clause." After the invalidation of that clause, a unique consultation of the Oklahoma legislature enacted a brand new scheme for registration as a prerequisite to voting. Oklahoma Laws of 1916, Act of February 26, 1916, c. 24. Section 4 of this statute (now § 5654, Oklahoma Statutes 1931, 26 Okla. St.Ann. seventy four) [Footnote 1] become obviously
Page 307 U. S. 271
directed closer to the effects of the selection in Guinn v. United States, supra. Those who had voted in the popular election of 1914 mechanically remained qualified electorate. The new registration necessities affected best others. These needed to observe for registration between April 30, 1916, and May eleven, 1916, if qualified at that point, with an extension to June 30, 1916, given best to the ones
"absent from the county . . . for the duration of such time period, or . . . avoided by illness or unavoidable misfortune from registering . . . within such time."
The crux of the present controversy is the validity of this registration scheme, with its dividing line between white citizens who had voted below the "grandfather clause" immunity prior to Guinn v. United States, supra, and citizens who had been outdoor it, and the now not greater than 12 days because the ordinary length of registration for the theretofore proscribed class.
The petitioner, a colored citizen of Oklahoma, who turned into the plaintiff beneath and could hereafter be referred to as such, sued 3 county election officials for declining to sign in him on October 17, 1934. He was certified for registration in 1916, however did not then get at the registration listing. The proof is in warfare whether or not he supplied himself in that yr for registration and, in that case, below what situations registration turned into denied him. The fact is that plaintiff did no longer get on the sign in in 1916. Under the terms of the statute, he thereby permanently misplaced the proper to sign up, and consequently the right to vote. The central claim of plaintiff is that of the unconstitutionality of § 5654. The defendants joined problem on this declare, and similarly insisted that, if there were illegality
Page 307 U. S. 272
in a denial of the plaintiff s proper to registration, his right recourse was to the courts of Oklahoma. The District Court took the case from the jury, and its motion turned into affirmed via the Circuit Court of Appeals. It found no evidence of discrimination towards negroes within the management of § 5654, and denied that the regulation became in struggle with the Fifteenth Amendment. 98 F.2nd 980.
The defendants urge two bars to the plaintiff s recuperation, apart from the constitutional validity of § 5654. They say that, on the plaintiff s personal assumption of its invalidity, there may be no Oklahoma statute underneath which he may want to register, and therefore no proper to registration has been denied. Secondly, they argue that the kingdom manner for determining claims of discrimination need to be employed earlier than invoking the federal judiciary. These contentions can be taken into consideration first, for the disposition of a constitutional question ought to be reserved to the final.
The first objection derives from a misapplication of Giles v. Harris, 189 U. S. 475. In that case, a bill in equity turned into added by means of a coloured man on behalf of himself "and on behalf of greater than 5 thousand negroes, residents of the county of Montgomery, Alabama, in addition located" which, in effect, requested the federal courtroom "to supervise the balloting in that State by way of officials of the court." What this Court called a "new and great situation" was found "strikingly" to reinforce "the argument that equity cannot adopt now, any more than it has inside the past, to put in force political rights." See 189 U.S. at 189 U. S. 487. [Footnote 2] Apart from this traditional restrict upon the workout of equitable jurisdiction, there was every other issue in Giles v. Harris. The plaintiff there was, in impact, asking for specific overall performance of his right beneath
Page 307 U. S. 273
Alabama electoral legislation. This presupposed the validity of the law under which he turned into claiming. But the entire concept of his invoice changed into the invalidity of this regulation. Naturally enough, this Court took his claim at its face price and located no law on the idea of which particular performance could be decreed. [Footnote three]
This case could be very exclusive from Giles v. Harris -- the distinction having been explicitly foreshadowed by way of Giles v. Harris itself. In that case, this Court declared "we aren't organized to say that an motion at regulation couldn't be maintained at the records alleged inside the bill." 189 U.S. at 189 U. S. 485. That is exactly the idea of the present action, delivered under the following "suitable regulation" of Congress to put into effect the Fifteenth Amendment:
"Every individual who, below coloration of any statute, . . . of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . inside the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured through the Constitution and laws, shall be susceptible to the birthday party injured in an motion at regulation. . . . [Footnote 4] "
Page 307 U. S. 274
The Fifteenth Amendment secures freedom from discrimination resulting from race in subjects affecting the franchise. Whosoever "below color of any statute" subjects some other to such discrimination thereby deprives him of what the Fifteenth Amendment secures and, beneath § 1979, turns into "prone to the celebration injured in an movement at regulation." The concept of the plaintiff s movement is that the defendants, performing below coloration of § 5654, did discriminate towards him due to the fact that Section inherently operates discriminatorily. If this declare is sustained, his proper to sue underneath R.S. § 1979 follows. The foundation of this movement is inequality of treatment, though below color of regulation, now not denial of the proper to vote. Compare Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U. S. 536.
The other preliminary objection to the protection of this motion is also untenable. To vindicate his gift complaint, the plaintiff did no longer ought to pursue some thing treatment may additionally have been open to him inside the kingdom courts. Normally, the country legislative process, every now and then exercised via administrative powers conferred on nation courts, ought to be finished earlier than motel to the federal courts can be had. Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co., 211 U. S. 210. But the kingdom method open for one in the plaintiff s scenario (§ 5654) has all of the indicia of a traditional judicial intending, and does not confer upon the Oklahoma courts any of the discretionary or initiatory features which can be characteristic of administrative organizations. See Section 1 of Article IV of the Oklahoma Constitution; Oklahoma Cotton Ginners Assn. v. State, 174 Okla. 243; 51 P.second 327. Barring most effective exceptional occasions, see e.g., Gilchrist v. Interborough Rapid Transit Co., 279 U. S. 159, or specific statutory necessities, e.g., 48 Stat. 775; 50 Stat. 738; 28 U.S.C. § forty one(1), lodge to a federal court can be had without first arduous the judicial remedies of country courts. 1st baron beaverbrook v. Rutland
Page 307 U. S. 275
R. Co., 232 U. S. 134; Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Kuykenall, 265 U. S. 196.
We consequently cannot keep away from passing on the deserves of plaintiff s constitutional claims. The attain of the Fifteenth Amendment towards contrivances via a country to thwart equality in the amusement of the right to vote by residents of the United States no matter race or colour has been amply expounded by using previous decisions. Guinn v. United States, 238 U. S. 347; Myers v. Anderson, 238 U. S. 36. The Amendment nullifies sophisticated in addition to simple-minded modes of discrimination. It hits exhausting procedural necessities which successfully handicap workout of the franchise by the coloured race despite the fact that the summary right to vote may additionally stay unrestricted as to race. When, in Guinn v. United States, supra, the Oklahoma "grandfather clause" become found violative of the Fifteenth Amendment, Oklahoma was confronted with the critical undertaking of devising a brand new registration device consonant with her very own political thoughts but additionally constant with the Federal Constitution. We are compelled to conclude, but reluctantly, that the law of 1916 partakes too much of the disease of the "grandfather clause" as a way to live to tell the tale.
Section 5652 of the Oklahoma statutes makes registration a prerequisite to balloting. [Footnote five] By §§ 5654 and 5659, [Footnote 6] all
Page 307 U. S. 276
citizens who had been certified to vote in 1916 but had now not voted in 1914 have been required to register, shop inside the wonderful situations, between April 30 and May 11, 1916, and, in default of such registration, had been invariably disenfranchised. Exemption from this hard provision became enjoyed by using all who had registered in 1914. But this registration became held beneath the statute which turned into condemned in the Guinn case. Unfair discrimination become consequently retained by mechanically granting balloting privileges for lifestyles to the white citizens whom the constitutional "grandfather clause" had sheltered at the same time as subjecting colored residents to a new burden. The realistic effect of the 1916 law was to accord to the members of the negro race who had been discriminated against inside the outlawed registration machine of 1914 now not greater than 12 days within which to reassert constitutional rights which this Court observed within the Guinn case to were improperly taken from them. We believe that the opportunity as a result given negro voters to loose themselves from the results of discrimination to which they should never have been subjected was too cabined and constrained. The restrictions imposed need to be judged close to those for whom they were designed. It must be remembered that we are handling a frame of citizens missing the habits and traditions of political independence and in any other case living in situations which do not inspire initiative and enterprise. To be sure, in outstanding instances, a supplemental
Page 307 U. S. 277
length as available. But the slender basis of the supplemental registration, the very brief everyday period of relief for the people and functions in query, the realistic problems, of which the file in this situation offers glimpses, inevitable within the management of such strict registration provisions, depart no escape from the realization that the way chosen as substitutes for the invalidated "grandfather clause" had been themselves invalid below the Fifteenth Amendment. They operated unfairly towards the very magnificence on whose behalf the safety of the Constitution was here efficiently invoked.
The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals have to, therefore, be reversed, and the cause remanded to the District Court for in addition complaints in accordance with this opinion.
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS and MR. JUSTICE BUTLER suppose that the court docket under reached the proper conclusion, and that its judgment need to be affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS took no part inside the consideration or disposition of this case.
"It shall be the duty of the precinct registrar to sign up every qualified elector of his election precinct who makes utility among the thirtieth day of April, 1916, and the 11th day of May, 1916, and such man or woman making use of shall at the time he applies to sign in be a qualified elector in such precinct and he shall observe the provisions of this act, and it will be the responsibility of each certified elector to check in within such time; provided, if any elector ought to be absent from the county of his house in the course of such time frame, or is avoided by using sickness or unavoidable misfortune from registering with the precinct registrar within such time, he may also sign in with such precinct registrar at any time after the 10th day of May, 1916, up to and such as the thirtieth day of June, 1916, but the precinct registrar shall check in no individual underneath this provision until he be satisfied that such person was absent from the county or turned into prevented from registering by sickness or unavoidable misfortune, as hereinbefore furnished. And supplied that it will be the necessary duty of each precinct registrar to difficulty registration certificates to every certified elector who voted at the overall election held in this nation on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 1914, without the software of stated elector for registration, and, to supply such certificates to such elector if he is still a qualified elector in such precinct and the failure to so check in such elector who voted in such election held in November, 1914, shall not avert or prevent such elector from balloting in any election on this nation, and provided further, that, anywhere any elector is refused registration through any registration officer such motion may be reviewed with the aid of the district court docket of the county through the aggrieved elector by using his filing within ten days a petition with the Clerk of said court docket, whereupon summons will be issued to said registrar requiring him to reply inside ten days, and the district court docket will be a expeditious hearing and from his judgment an attraction will lie at the instance of both celebration to the Supreme Court of the State as in civil instances, and furnished in addition, that the provisions of this act shall not apply to any school district elections. Provided similarly, that each county election board on this state shall provide to each precinct election board inside the respective counties a list of the citizens who voted at the election in November, 1914, and such list shall be conclusive proof of the proper of such man or woman to vote."
See also In re Sawer, 124 U. S. 200; Walton v. House of Rep., 265 U. S. 487; four POMEROY, EQUITY § 1743 et seq.; Pound, Equitable Relief Against Defamation and Injuries to Personality, 29 HARV.L.REV 640, 681.
"If the sections of the charter regarding registration have been illegal of their inception, it might be a brand new doctrine in constitutional law that the original invalidity may be cured via an administration which defeated their rationale. We explicit no opinion as to the alleged reality of their unconstitutionality past pronouncing that we aren't willing to expect that they may be valid inside the face of the allegations and primary object of the bill, for the motive of granting the comfort which it was essential to wish simply so that item ought to be secured."
189 U.S. at 189 U. S. 487. Recognition of the difference between an movement for damages and the equitable remedy prayed for in Giles v. Harris turned into repeated on the near of the opinion. See 189 U.S. at 189 U. S. 488. Justices Harlan, Brewer, and Brown had been of the opinion that it become ready for a federal court docket to supply even the equitable comfort asked for in Giles v. Harris.
The Act of April 20, 1871, c. 22, 17 Stat. thirteen, which became § 1979 of the Revised Statutes, and is now 8 U.S.C. § 43.
"It will be the duty of every qualified elector in this state to register as an elector under the provisions of this Act, and no elector shall be accredited to vote at any election except he shall sign up as herein furnished, and no elector will be authorised to vote in any primary election of any political party besides of the political party of which his registration certificates indicates him to be a member."
§ 2, Oklahoma Laws of 1916, c. 24.
"Any character who can also grow to be a certified elector in any precinct on this State after the tenth day of May, 1916, or after the final of another registration duration, may additionally register as an elector by means of making software to the registrar of the precinct in which he's a qualified voter, now not greater than twenty nor less than ten days before the day of retaining any election and upon complying with all the phrases and provisions of this Act, and it will be the responsibility of precinct registrars to register such certified electors in their precinct below the terms and provisions of this Act, beginning twenty days earlier than the date of retaining any election and continuing for a duration of ten days. Precinct registrars shall haven't any authority to register electors at another time besides as provided on this Act, and no registration certificates issued by means of any precinct registrar at another time besides as herein provided will be valid."
§ nine, Oklahoma Laws of 1916, c. 24.
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