Clements v. Fashing

LOCATION: Suffolk County Court

DOCKET NO.: 80-1290
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 457 US 957 (1982)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1982

James P. Allison - on behalf of the Appellants
Raymond C. Caballero - on behalf of the Apppellees

Facts of the case


Media for Clements v. Fashing

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1982 in Clements v. Fashing

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Clements against Fashing.

Mr. Allison, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

James P. Allison:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case involves Article XVI, Section 65 of the Texas Constitution, the resign to run provision, and Article III, Section 19, concerning eligibility to the state legislature.

The action was brought for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief alleging violation of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.

The officeholder plaintiffs were a judge of the county court at law, two justices of the peace, and a constable.

Other plaintiffs included citizens and registered voters.

The defendants were the local and state officers who were charged with the enforcement of the challenged provisions.

The district court held that both Article XVI, Section 65, and Article III, Section 19, contravened the equal protection clause of the U. S. Constitution, and therefore the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and injunctive relief.

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court opinion adopted in the memorandum pending in the district court.

A short, very brief historical background on these provisions and the Texas political system would be helpful in analyzing these provisions.

The current Texas constitution was adopted in 1876.

The constitution provides for a very decentralized system of government.

Under this constitution, almost all local and state offices are elected, and from 1876 until the 1950s each of these, almost all of these were elected for a two-year term.

In the 1950s, four-year terms were extended to most of these offices.

In 1954, four-year terms were extended to the precinct and county offices included in Article XVI, Section 65.

In 1958, after the people of the state had extended four-year terms to these offices, the resign to run provision in Article XVI, Section 65, was adopted.

Article III, Section 19 has been included in the Texas constitution since the constitution of the Republic of Texas was drafted in 1836.

I would first like to point out an error in the conclusions reached by the district court in its memorandum opinion.

The district court found and apparently relied heavily upon a distinction between the application of the resign to run rule to the office of justice of the peace and its application to the office of municipal court judge.

The district court stated that the justice of the peace is included under Article XVI, Section 65, and the municipal court judge, who has very similar jurisdiction, is not, and found that to be a distinction of some great importance in finding that the resign to run rule contravened the constitution.

What the district court overlooked was Article XI, Section 11 of the Texas constitution, adopted in 1958, at the same time as the resign to run rule in Article XVI, Section 65.

Article XI, Section 11, states that any municipality which extends the terms of its officers from two years to four years, that once that is done, that those officers will be under the same resign to run provisions as offices that are under Article XVI, Section 65.

So there is no distinction between the application of the resign to run rules, between the office of justice of the peace and any municipal office, whether it be municipal judge--

Was that called to the attention of the district judge?

James P. Allison:

--No, Your Honor.

To the best of my knowledge it was not.

Even after the judgment?

James P. Allison:

I don't know, Your Honor.

I did not have this case until after the Fifth Circuit had ruled on it.

But municipal judges who still have two-year terms are still subject to the resign to run rule?