U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 19 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 779 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

Unsurprisingly, the state courts and lower federal courts have similarly concluded that Powell conclusively resolved the issue whether Congress has the power to impose additional qualifications. See, e. g., Joyner v. Mofford, 706 F. 2d 1523, 1528 (CA9 1983) ("In Powell . . . , the Supreme Court accepted this restrictive view of the Qualifications Clause— at least as applied to Congress"); Michel v. Anderson, 14 F. 3d 623 (CADC 1994) (citing Nixon's description of Powell's holding); Stumpf v. Lau, 108 Nev. 826, 830, 839 P. 2d 120, 122 (1992) (citing Powell for the proposition that "[n]ot even Congress has the power to alter qualifications for these constitutional federal officers").13

have the power to do so. Under the dissent's unyielding approach, it would seem that McCulloch was wrongly decided. Similarly, the dissent's approach would invalidate our dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence, because the Constitution is clearly silent on the subject of state legislation that discriminates against interstate commerce. However, though Justice Thomas has endorsed just that argument, see, e. g., Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., ante, p. 175 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment, joined by Thomas, J.), the Court has consistently rejected that argument and has continued to apply the dormant Commerce Clause, see, e. g., ante, at 179-180; Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc., 486 U. S. 888 (1988).

13 Our decision in Powell and its historical analysis were consistent with prior decisions from state courts. For example, in State ex rel. Johnson v. Crane, 65 Wyo. 189, 197 P. 2d 864 (1948), the Wyoming Supreme Court undertook a detailed historical analysis and concluded that the Qualifications Clauses were exclusive. Several other courts reached the same result, though without performing the same detailed historical analysis. See, e. g., Hellmann v. Collier, 217 Md. 93, 141 A. 2d 908 (1958); State ex rel. Chandler v. Howell, 104 Wash. 99, 175 P. 569 (1918); State ex rel. Eaton v. Schmahl, 140 Minn. 219, 167 N. W. 481 (1918); see generally State ex rel. Johnson v. Crane, 65 Wyo., at 204-213, 197 P. 2d, at 869-874 (citing cases).

The conclusion and analysis were also consistent with the positions taken by commentators and scholars. See, e. g., n. 9, supra; see also Warren 412-422 (discussing history and concluding that "[t]he elimination of all power in Congress to fix qualifications clearly left the provisions of the Constitution itself as the sole source of qualifications").


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