RESPONDENT: Greater Baton Rouge Airport District
LOCATION: Environmental Protection Agency
DOCKET NO.: 76-352
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court
CITATION: 431 US 159 (1977)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1977
DECIDED: May 16, 1977
Herschel C. Adcock -
Joseph F. Keogh -
Facts of the case
Media for Chappelle v. Greater Baton Rouge Airport District
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1977 in Chappelle v. Greater Baton Rouge Airport District
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in 76-352 Chappelle against Greater Baton Rouge Airport.
Mr. Adcock, I think you may proceed when you are ready.
Herschel C. Adcock:
Mr. Chief Justice may it please the court.
My name is Herschel Adcock and I represent the appellant in this matter E. C. Chappelle, Jr.
This is the case that is before the court on the constitutional issue in that a Louisianaa statute requires the ownership of property assessed within a parish in order for a person to be a member of the airport commission.
For period of five years, prior to the time the appellant resigned, he was an Executive Director and Secretary of the Greater Baton Rouge Airport District.
Mr. Chappelle was the airport for all intent purposes.
He ran the entire show.
With the airport commission giving him technical advise.
Mr. Chappelle then resigned his position as the Director of the airport and was appointed as a member of the airport commission.
Shortly, thereafter prior to the time that his appointment ran, East Baton Rouge Parish clerk summarily dismissed Mr. Chappelle from the commission after receiving a legal opinion that sends Mr. Chappelle did not own property assessed in East Baton Rouge Parish that he was not qualified to serve as a commissioner on the airport.
Based upon this notion Mr. Chappelle then filed suit in District Court in Baton Rouge.
Alleging number one that he did meet the qualifications that he did own property that had been assessed in East Baton Rouge Parish and it was proved in Court that he did own property on which he had actually paid taxes, but the Court held the sense this property was not listed on the assessment rules that he had not technically met the requirements to be a member of the airport commission.
Mr. Chappelle likewise the alternative that the court determine that he did not meet these qualifications raised the issue that the act which required the ownership property was unconstitutional and violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the United States constitution.
On March 4, 1975; Mr. Chappelle was formerly denied his seat from airport commission.
On July 23, 1975 Nineteenth Judicial District Court ruled in favor of the City of Baton Rouge stating that indeed he did not have the right to sit on the airport commission because he did not have property assessed in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Mr. Chappelle then went to the next procedure he asked the Court of Appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeal sitting in Baton Rouge to review the decision.
Once again, he urged the equal protection in the process clauses of the United State of constitution.
Once again, the Court of Appeal aligned to stay up with the District Court stating they own no assessed property and was therefore not qualified to sit as a member of the airport commission.
Mr. Chappelle had no direct right of appeal to the Louisiana State Supreme Court but asked the Supreme Court to review this decision by the Court of Appeals.
The Supreme and a memorandum decision denied the writ with one of the Justices stating that the writ should be granted and he cited the case on which we principally relied Turner v. Fouche.
We held before the court, we believe three questions.
The first one is the case of Turner v. Fouche, does it mandate that this statute in Louisiana that requires the ownership of assessed property, does it mandates this statute destruct in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Secondly, the court should determine whether or not this act is in violation of the due process clause in that the requirement of the ownership of assessed property has no reasonable basis as to the qualifications of a person to sit on the airport commission.
What sort of a priority counsel does the Greater Baton Rouge Airport District exercise?
Does it exercise general governmental authority, or is a kind of specialized district.
Herschel C. Adcock:
It is a specialized commission that deals with the day-to-day affairs of the airport itself.
Why would not that be governed by those Scheuer and Calero cases which we handed down about three or four years ago, which is I noticed neither party’s cites in their briefs, where we said in the case of the special improvement district, you have the one man, one board rule and the property requirements did not apply.
Herschel C. Adcock:
This body is a public body that sits and actually approves leases and deals with the day-to-day affairs of the airport it is a public appointed body they serve for a given term.
Well these were in that sense public bodies, but I think they were described as kind of special use districts rather than districts having general governmental powers.