U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 10 (1995)

Page:   Index   Previous  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  Next

788

U. S. TERM LIMITS, INC. v. THORNTON

Opinion of the Court

of a duly elected Member of Congress. The principal issue was whether the power granted to each House in Art. I, 5, cl. 1, to judge the "Qualifications of its own Members" 3 includes the power to impose qualifications other than those set forth in the text of the Constitution. In an opinion by Chief Justice Warren for eight Members of the Court,4 we

held that it does not. Because of the obvious importance of the issue, the Court's review of the history and meaning of the relevant constitutional text was especially thorough. We therefore begin our analysis today with a full statement of what we decided in that case.

The Issue in Powell

In November 1966, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was elected from a District in New York to serve in the United States House of Representatives for the 90th Congress. Allegations that he had engaged in serious misconduct while serving as a committee chairman during the 89th Congress led to the appointment of a Select Committee to determine his eligibility to take his seat. That committee found that Powell met the age, citizenship, and residency requirements set forth in Art. I, 2, cl. 2. The committee also found, however, that Powell had wrongfully diverted House funds for the use of others and himself and had made false reports on expenditures of foreign currency. Based on those findings, the House after debate adopted House Resolution 278, excluding

on whether Congress and the States may add qualifications to those that appear in the Constitution.

3 Art. I, 5, cl. 1, provides in part: "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do business . . . ."

4 Justice Stewart dissented on procedural grounds, arguing that the case should have been dismissed as moot. See 395 U. S., at 559-561. Other than expressing agreement with the characterization of the case as raising constitutional issues which " 'touch the bedrock of our political system [and] strike at the very heart of representative government,' " id., at 573, Justice Stewart did not comment on the merits.

Page:   Index   Previous  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007