Quinn v. Millsap

LOCATION: Reproductive Health Services

DOCKET NO.: 88-1048
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Missouri

CITATION: 491 US 95 (1989)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1989
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1989

Kevin M. O'Keefe - on behalf of Appellants
Simon B. Buckner - on behalf of Appellees

Facts of the case


Media for Quinn v. Millsap

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1989 in Quinn v. Millsap

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 88-1048, Robert J. Quinn v. Wayne L. Millsap.

Mr. O'Keefe.

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is before the Court on appeal from a final judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri.

Appellants, as certified by the courts below, are a class comprising all registered voters of the State of Missouri who do not also own real property.

At issue is Section 30 of Article VI of the Constitution of the State of Missouri, a provision authorizing the creation and operation of a Board of Freeholders, which is an ad hoc, tax-supported, public governmental body authorized the exclusive authority to prepare and submit to the electorate of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area a plan for local government reorganization including the partial or complete government of all or any part of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The case was originally submitted on cross-motions for summary judgment and stipulated facts.

The challenge to the Section 30, both on its face and as applied, in the instance of the creation of the present Board of Freeholders in this area, was overruled by the Missouri Supreme Court on the grounds that the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment are irrelevant to the discrimination suffered by the appellant class because, in the court's words, the Board of Freeholders fails to exercise "general governmental power".

The question thus presented in the Court this afternoon is whether the State of Missouri may, by the operation of its State Constitution and the activities of appointing authorities operating under that provision, extend to one class of citizens... to wit, property owners, the owners of real property... the opportunity for public service and participation in a critical aspect of state and local governmental operation and, at the same time, withhold an equivalent opportunity for service and participation to the members of the appellant class solely because the appellants do not own an interest in real property.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. O'Keefe, how far does your theory go?

The Board does deal with things like recommendations on property taxes, I gather, and formation of sewer districts, and property boundaries of one kind or another.

Do you suppose it would be possible, because property owners are particularly affected, to have a Board in which some of the members have to be property owners?

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

Your Honor, the circumstances, of course, are not that there is a requirement for a representative array of Board members.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

I understand that.

That's not my question.

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

I do not believe that property ownership would be a disqualification for service, as is the lack of property ownership.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, I'm asking whether it would be permissible under the Constitution, in your view, for a state to set it up with certain members having to be property owners... maybe so many civil engineers, and so forth and so on.

Can the state do that?

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

Justice O'Connor, I don't believe that the ownership of property bears any rational relationship to the authority that a Board of Freeholders enjoys.

As such, either its absence or its presence,--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

xxx their duties impact heavily on property ownership?

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

--Well, there is a reference in Section 30(b) of the Missouri Constitution to the levying of the property tax.

That has been interpreted by the State Constitution, however, as to... that it involves the levy of both personal and real property taxes.

There are no exclusively real property issues.

The boundary lines of governmental entities are certainly not real property issues.

The creation of a sewer district serves renters and property-owners alike, and similar proposals within the current plan, particularly the reduction of the property tax and the imposition of an earnings tax in lieu of it, are certainly not... do not demonstrate that the absence of ownership of property should disqualify an individual.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. O'Keefe, this Board, I take it, doesn't actually adopt anything itself, does it?

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

It does adopt a plan.

William H. Rehnquist:

But it... but the plan it adopts doesn't have the force of law until it's ratified by the electors?

Kevin M. O'Keefe:

That is correct.