Richardson v. Ramirez

LOCATION:Robinson’s car during a traffic stop

DOCKET NO.: 72-1589
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of California

CITATION: 418 US 24 (1974)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1974
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1974

Duncan M. James
George J. Roth – for State of California, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Martin R. Glick – for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Richardson v. Ramirez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 15, 1974 in Richardson v. Ramirez

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 24, 1974 in Richardson v. Ramirez

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition of number 72-1589, Richardson against Ramirez and 73-507 Hamling against the United States, 73-557, Jenkins against Georgia will each be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

In Richardson versus Ramirez, the three individual respondents in the case had been convicted of felonies and had completed the service of their sentences and paroles.

When they sought to register to vote, county election officials in three California counties in which they resided, refused to register them because the California Constitution and implementing legislation prohibited voting by ex-felons.

The individual respondents then brought this mandamus action in the Supreme Court of California against the election officials, individually and as representatives of the class of all such election officials.

They claimed on behalf of themselves and all other ex-felon similarly situated that the California provisions disenfranchising ex-felons denied them equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The California Supreme Court held that the challenged California constitutional and statutory provisions as applied to ex-felons whose sentences and paroles had expired did violate the Equal Protection Clause.

We reverse that holding.

We hold first that in view of the unusual procedural history of this case in the Supreme Court of California, it is not moot.

We further hold that the California does not violate the Equal Protection Clause by disenfranchising convicted felons who have completed their sentences and paroles.

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which contains the Equal Protection Clause could not have been meant to bar outright the disenfranchisement of felons when their disenfranchisement is expressly exempted by Section 2 of the same amendment from the less drastic sanction imposed by that Section for other forms of disenfranchisement.

We further refer to contemporaneous historical materials illuminating understanding of the framers of the amendment in an opinion filed with the clerk today.

Mr. Justice Douglas has filed a dissenting statement.

Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion, in which Mr. Justice Brennan has joined and in Part 1 (a) of which Mr. Justice Douglas joins.