|Argument Date: ||Nov. 6, 2000 |
|Argument Date: ||Feb. 28, 2001 |
|Issue: ||Freedom of Speech — Whether the 1996 Missouri ballot initiative concerning term limits for members of the United States Congress violates the U.S. Constitution. |
|Vote: ||Yes; the court voted unanimously that the Missouri amendment was unconstitutional with seven justices basing their reasoning on the Elections Clause (U.S. Const. Art. I, § 4, cl. 1). The remaining two justices based their analysis on the First Amendment. |
|Facts: || |
In November of 1996, an amendment to the Missouri Constitution was passed which requires members of the state congressional delegation, as well as candidates for those seats, to work and vote for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution setting term limits for members of the U.S. Congress. State congressmen and candidates not abiding by the amendment would have a label ("Disregarded Voters' Instructions on Term Limits" or "Declined to Pledge To Support Term Limits") placed next to their name on election ballots.
Don Gralike, a Missouri congressional candidate, filed a challenge to the Amendment against Rebecca Cook, Missouri's secretary of state, in federal court.
In January of 1998, the U.S. District Court held in summary judgment for Gralike that the Missouri Amendment was unconstitutional on multiple grounds: First Amendment, Article I (with regard to both the Speech & Debate Clause and the Qualifications Clause), and Article V (Amendment Process). 996 F. Supp. 901 (W. D. Mo. 1998).
In August of 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals (8th Cir.) affirmed the district court's decision and found the Missouri Amendment to be unconstitutional because it violated the First Amendment as well as the other constitutional guarantees noted above. The court also observed that similar initiatives in other states had been invalidated on various state and federal constitutional grounds.
|Legal Principles at Issue: ||Cook v. Gralike raises issues of sovereignty and federalism in the arena of state elections for federal offices. The constitutionality of the Missouri amendment was challenged as a First Amendment violation (which guarantees freedom of speech), a Speech or Debate Clause violation (which protects the performance of legislative duties by the members of Congress), an Elections Clause violation (which grants the states broad procedural powers in administering state elections for federal offices), and a violation of Art. V (which sets out the process for amending the U.S. Constitution). |
|Legal Basis for Decision: || |
Seven of the nine justices analyze the constitutionality of the Missouri amendment as an Elections Clause issue, expressly separating their approach to the case from First Amendment inquiry. The Elections Clause gives states the ability to regulate "[t]he Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives." (U.S. Const., Art. I, § 4, cl. 1). The court finds the Missouri amendment an impermissible attempt to regulate the outcome of the elections rather than a permissible attempt to regulate the time, place, and manner of the elections.
Chief Justice Rehnquist, in a concurring opinion that was joined by Justice O'Connor, analyzes the case as part of a line of "ballot access cases based on First Amendment ground." He finds the Missouri amendment to be a clear violation of the First Amendment: "Specifically … [the Missouri amendment] violates the First Amendment right of a political candidate, once lawfully on the ballot, to have his name appear unaccompanied by pejorative language required by the State."
Chief Justice Rehnquist states that time, place, and manner regulations of elections are valid if they are content-neutral, narrowly-tailored to address a significant government issue, and provide alternative means for communication of the information. Applying this three-part test Chief Justice Rehnquist finds the Missouri amendment to be content-based and discriminatory on the basis of viewpoint. "The result is that the State injects itself into the election process at an absolutely critical point — the composition of the ballot, which is the last thing the voter sees before he makes his choice — and does so in a way that is not neutral as to issues or candidates."
|Quotable: ||"In discussing the Elections Clause issue, respondents have also relied in part on First Amendment cases upholding "time, place, and manner" regulations of speech … Although the Elections Clause uses the same phrase as that branch of our First Amendment jurisprudence, it by no means follows that such cases have any relevance to out disposition of this case." (Justice Stevens, Footnote 20) |
"Specifically, I believe that [the Missouri Amendment] violates the First Amendment right of a potential candidate, once lawfully on the ballot, to have his name appear unaccompanied by pejorative language required by the State." (Chief Justice Rehnquist, concurring)
"If other Missouri officials feel strongly about the need for term limits, they are free to urge rejection of candidates who do not share their view and refuse to "take the pledge." Such candidates are able to respond to that sort of speech with speech of their own. But the State itself may not skew the ballot listings in this way without violating the First Amendment." (Chief Justice Rehnquist, concurring)
|Writing for the Majority: ||Justice Stevens (joined by Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer, joined by Souter (as to Parts I, II, and IV), joined by Thomas (as to Parts I and IV)). |
|Concurring Opinion by: ||Justice Kennedy. |
|Concurring Opinion by: ||Justice Thomas. |
|Concurring Opinion by: ||Chief Justice Rehnquist (joined by O'Connor). |