Fortson v. Morris

LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 385 US 231 (1966)
ARGUED: Dec 05, 1966
DECIDED: Dec 12, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Fortson v. Morris

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 05, 1966 in Fortson v. Morris

Earl Warren:

Ben W. Fortson, Jr., Individually, and as Secretary of State of Georgia versus John Morris et al.

But I should announce before counsel begin that the orders of the Court had been certified by the Chief Justice filed with the clerk and will not be announced in order.

Mr. Hill.

Harold N. Hill, Jr.:

May it please the Court.

This case comes here from Georgia and is an appeal from a decision of a three-judge court of the Northern District of Georgia.

I'm sure I speak for counsel for all of the parties in the case expressing our appreciation for the Court's rearranging its calendar and permitting us to be here today.

The Democratic primary was held in Georgia on September 14th of 1966.

There were five candidates in that primary.

Former Governor Ellis Arnall run first, Lester G.Maddox was second.

The -- a runoff was held on December the -- or September the 28th between Lester Maddox and Ellis Arnall.

Mr. Maddox received 54% of the vote in that runoff and Mr. Arnall 46%.

Howard Callaway became the nominee of the Republican Party by getting a nomination petition signed by 5% of the registered voters which would be about 90,000 signatures.

The general election was held on November 8th, the news election service on official returns show that Mr. Maddox received in that election, 448,044 votes.

Mr. Callaway, 449,894 votes with a difference between them of 1,850 votes.

Mr. Arnall and a write-in campaign which was sponsored for him but not by him received some 57,000 votes or 6%, so that neither candidate of the top two candidates had a majority.

The Georgia Constitution provides that when neither candidate in the Governor's race receives a majority of the vote the Georgia General Assembly shall meet in joint session and elect from the two candidates having received the highest number of votes a Governor.

On Wednesday November 9th, the day after the general election, the Morris suit was filed.

It originally sought to enjoin the election of the Governor until the General Assembly could be reapportioned which was to take place not later than 1969.

Hugo L. Black:

-- circumstances by majority?

And they elect between the two candidates by a majority vote or (Voice Overlap) --

Harold N. Hill, Jr.:

They do.

Hugo L. Black:

-- or some other format?

Harold N. Hill, Jr.:

They elect by a majority vote.

In order for that to be a joint session, there would be necessary that there be a like a forum from each House President and then a majority of the votes of the members present would be necessary to elect the Governor.

I wouldn't -- would not anticipate that there would be many people absent on the date.

Byron R. White:

Mr. Hill, is you're suggestion that at least one of the briefs I made the Democratic legislator would be oath bound to vote for the Democratic candidate?

Harold N. Hill, Jr.:

There is that suggestion in the briefs.

The oath only go so far as to say that they would support the nominee of the Democratic Party at the November 8th general election.

That election is for --

Byron R. White:

You're saying that if that's not so that no Democratic legislator would be oath bound to support the Democratic --