Renne v. Geary

LOCATION:Clark County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 90-769
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 501 US 312 (1991)
ARGUED: Apr 23, 1991
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1991

Arlo Hale Smith – on behalf of the Respondents
Cedric C. Chao – on behalf of California Democratic Party, et al., as amici curiae, supporting the Respondents
Dennis Aftergut – on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Renne v. Geary

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 23, 1991 in Renne v. Geary

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 17, 1991 in Renne v. Geary

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-769 Renne against Geary will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

This case comes to us on certiorari to United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

At issue is a provision of the California Constitution, Article II Section 6(b).

It provides that no political party or party’s central committee may endorse, support, or oppose a candidate for non-partisan office.

The petitioners are the City and County of San Francisco, the local Board of Supervisors and various other local officials.

The respondents include registered voters and members of political party’s central committees in San Francisco.

They filed suit in Federal Court seeking to have Section 6(b) declared invalid as violating the First Amendment.

In particular, they focused on the application of Section 6(b) in the context of voter pamphlets which are mailed out to the voters at public expense.

The respondents challenge the petitioner’s policy of editing the statements submitted by candidates for non-partisan office.

The petitioners allegedly would delete from the candidate’s statements any reference to an endorsement by a political party’s central committee or by a member of such a committee.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that Section 6(b) violates the First Amendment and we granted certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

Having examined the record, we conclude in an opinion filed today that the case is not justiciable.

Those who bring suit in Federal Court must demonstrate that the case is right for decision meaning that there is a concrete controversy between adverse parties, and that it is an appropriate time for judicial intervention.

Respondents have failed to demonstrate a live controversy right for resolution by the Federal Courts.

While respondent alleged that petitioners have deleted references to party endorsements from the voter pamphlets in the past and that they will do so in the future, they have not alleged facts showing an actual or eminent application of Section 6(b) sufficient to present constitutional issues in clean cut and concrete form.

If in the future a concrete dispute arises, implicating the constitutionality of the Section 6(b), respondents are free to renew their suit at that time.

Because we conclude the case is not at present justiciable, we vacate the decision below and remand with instructions to dismiss the portion of respondent’s complaint challenging Section 6(b).

Justice Scalia joins all the part 2B of the Court’s opinion; Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion; Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion; Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Blackmun joins.