Evans v. Cornman

LOCATION: Dodge County Juvenile Court

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 398 US 419 (1970)
ARGUED: Jan 22, 1970
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Evans v. Cornman

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 22, 1970 in Evans v. Cornman

Warren E. Burger:

Number 236, Evans against Tillye Cornman and others.

Mr. Sweeney, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Robert F. Sweeney:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

It is not without some regret that the State of Maryland arises this morning as the appellant in this case because we are not without sympathy for the plight in which the appellees have found themselves.

They are citizens of the United States of America.

They reside within the geographical boundaries of the State of Maryland.

They pay certain taxes to the State of Maryland and most understandably, they are desirous of having the right to vote.

I might also say that where there’s a matter of personal discretion, for the Attorney General of Maryland before the Governor of Maryland with whom I have discussed this, we, out of sympathy will extend that right to vote to them.

But we also submit to the Court, that in a government of laws and not of men, that this question is one that should not and cannot be decided out of sympathy for the plaintiffs or the appellees’ position but it is a question to which the laws of the United States, the Constitution of the United States and the laws of Maryland must be applied and a decision rendered after consideration of those laws.

I further suggest to the Court that the opinion of the District Court below, a District Court which we believe is one of the finest District Courts in the United States, notwithstanding its occasional err as in the instant case.

That the opinion of the District Court below was decided from an overabundance of sympathy for the plaintiffs and that that opinion, we respectfully submit is mistaken in fact and erroneous in law.

At the outset, let me state that appellants and appellees alike concede that the land in question here is that over which the Government of the United States has exclusive legislative jurisdiction.

It was not the policy of the State of Maryland in ceding jurisdiction to the federal government on any of the many federal reservations scattered throughout our state to reserve to ourselves concurrent jurisdiction, except that reservation which has become almost standard, the reservation as to serving process.

The question as to whether or not a resident of a federal enclave over which the United States exercised exclusive legislative jurisdiction, whether those individuals were entitled to vote was considered by the Court of Appeals of Maryland as recently as 1963 when some residents of the Perry Point Naval Hospital in Cecil County in Maryland applied for the right to register, were refused that right and appealed to the court.

In the Court of Appeals decision in that case, Royer versus the Board of Election Supervisors, the Maryland Court of Appeals, carefully considered the long line of cases in which the courts throughout this nation have considered this same question and after consideration of those cases and after review of what we believe to be the pertinent federal law on this question concluded that these individuals residing on these reservations were not in fact residents of the state of Maryland.

It appears to us from our study of the law that dating from almost -- from 1811 down to as recently as six months ago in New Mexico, the courts throughout the United States have held that persons residing on federal reservations over which there is exclusive legislative jurisdiction vested in the Congress by virtue of Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, those persons are not residents of the state.

They are not -- do not have the same political right as to the residents of the state which surrounds them and that the sovereignty and the authority and the dominion of those states, of the state surrounding these reservations does not exist over the individuals residing therein.

In this long line of cases considered by the courts throughout the country, there are but three representing a minority view or there were but three representing a minority view until the decision of the District Court.

Two of those three are not really applicable to the case at hand because one of those involved a state which had reserved to itself concurrent jurisdiction.

Another involved a state which -- a state statute and only one, the decision of the -- an Intermediate Court of Appeals in California followed the line of reasoning which was adopted by the District Court in this case.

May it please the Court, the arguments which we present today would appear to be, the first arguments addressed to this Court on this specific question, on the question of whether or not the residents of these enclaves must be granted the right to vote.

But the question itself is not a question of first impression to this Court.

It is not a question of which this Court has not taken notice on prior occasions.

Because the Court in surplus trading in 1930, in holding that certain blankets in the hands of a traitor on the federal reservation were not subject to state taxation.

This Court, set out at great length in this opinion and adopted, we believe the language of some of the state courts which had held and quoted the language of the state courts which had held that the residents of these federal enclaves were not entitled to vote, to be treated for voting purposes like the citizens of the states surrounding them.

The District Court decision from which we have appealed starts out by restating the premise that where the United States exercises this exclusive legislative jurisdiction over land within the state that the persons residing thereon are not, are not residents and need not be granted the vote.

Then having, we believe, correctly stated the law, the Court goes on to examine the so-called retrocession statutes, various statutes by which the Congress of the United States, from 1928 on, has purportedly retroceded to the states certain jurisdiction over the inhabitants of these reservations and the Court after review of these statutes then concludes that the United States in fact having retroceded its jurisdiction in what it says is all or substantially all of the important matters of state sovereignty and authority that this jurisdiction is not exclusively federal but is concurrent between the state and the federal government and it being concurrent to state, the District Court said is required to extend that most precious right of all, it says the right to vote to the petitioners.

We submit, Your Honor, first of all that an examination of these retrocession statutes will quickly reveal that they do not retrocede to the State of Maryland or to any other state the all or substantially all of the state sovereignty over these areas nor do they give to the state concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government in the important areas of sovereignty.

What do they do, quickly stated, one extends to the residents of these enclaves, the benefits and the detriments of the State of Maryland’s wrongful death statute.

Another extends to them the benefits and the detriments of our workmen's compensation laws and of our unemployment insurance laws, the two that seem to be a third dealt with the right of the state to tax the lessee’s interest in commercial properties, rented by the Government to entrepreneurs within the reservation.