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ADAMS v. CLINTON

March 20, 2000

LOIS E. ADAMS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS. CLIFFORD ALEXANDER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS, V. WILLIAM M. DALEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oberdorfer, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

In 1998, two complaints were filed, each alleging, inter alia, that inhabitants of the District of Columbia are being unconstitutionally deprived of their right to vote for voting representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Complaint, Adams v. Clinton, Civil No. 98-1665 (D.C. filed June 30, 1998)*fn1; Amended Complaint, Alexander v. Daley, Civil No. 98-2187 (D.C. filed Oct. 20, 1998)*fn2. As both complaints "challeng[ed] the constitutionality of the apportionment of congressional districts," 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a), the cases were consolidated, and a three-judge court was convened. Adams v. Clinton, 26 F. Supp.2d 156 (D.C. 1998). The three-judge court has addressed, in an opinion filed today, the apportionment issue, finding standing on account of the claim against the Secretary of Commerce. Adams v. Clinton, Civil Nos. 98-1665, 98-2187, slip op. Part III (D.C. Mar 20, 2000) (three-judge court) (Oberdorfer, J., dissenting). That court held that inhabitants of the District are not being unconstitutionally deprived of their right to vote for voting representation in the House of Representatives and, therefore, the District is not entitled to be apportioned seats in the House commensurate with its population. Id. Part IV. It declined jurisdiction, however, over the plaintiffs' claims seeking representation in the Senate and challenging the existence of the Control Board, as those claims do not concern apportionment. Id. Part II. Those claims have been remanded to this single-judge court for resolution. Id. For the reasons explained herein, those claims will be dismissed.

I

The Senate

A

A detailed summary of the facts is contained in the majority and dissenting opinions filed in the three-judge court portion of these cases. Only the critical facts with respect to the Senate are summarized here. When the Constitution was adopted, Article I, section 3, provided that members of the United States Senate would be elected by State legislatures, not by the people themselves, and that each State would elect two Senators. U.S. Const. art. I, § 3.*fn3 It was not until 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, that Senators were elected directly by the people. Id. amend. XVII.*fn4 As a result, when the United States assumed exclusive jurisdiction over the District in 1801, inhabitants had been voting for representation in the House of Representatives, but had never voted for representation in the Senate.

As the Constitution establishes that each State is entitled to two Senators, there is no need for the apportionment of seats that takes place prior to the election of members of the House of Representatives. Each State takes whatever steps it deems necessary to hold an election for Senator. Once a Senator is elected, the State sends a certificate to the Senate. The Secretary provides a model certificate "to the governor and secretary of each State wherein an election is about to take place or an appointment is to be made." Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule 11.3, reprinted in Senate Manual, S. Doc. No. 104-1 (1995). The Secretary is also responsible for keeping a record of the certificates. Id., Rule 11.2. At the beginning of each Congress, the President of the Senate lays the certificates of new Senators before the Senate for recognition. If there is no objection, the President then administers the oath of Office to these Senators. If there are issues about the qualifications or election of a particular Senator, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration resolves them, subject to the ultimate authority of the Senate as a whole. Id., Rule XXV.1(n)(1)(4). Once the new Senators have taken the oath of Office, the Secretary pays their salaries, 2 U.S.C. § 60c-1, and the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper admits them to the floor of the Senate while it is in session.*fn5 Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule 11.3. The District of Columbia Board of Elections has never held an election for Senator, has no present plans to do so, and, indeed, lacks the authority to do so under District law.

B

With respect to the Senate, the plaintiffs allege that denial of their right to vote for voting representation in that body deprives District inhabitants of their rights to equal protection, to the privileges of national citizenship, and to substantive and procedural due process. They contend that the Seventeenth Amendment does not pose a structural barrier to the relief they seek because the inhabitants of the District were at one time "people of the several States," for whom the Constitution "secured . . . all the rights and privileges it conferred on other Americans, including the right to representation in the Congress." Memorandum in Support of Motion of Plaintiffs Alexander et al. for Summary Judgment at 45 (filed Nov. 11, 1998). The plaintiffs relied on similar arguments to support their claim that they were being unconstitutionally deprived of their right to vote for voting representation in the House. The majority of the three-judge court, which today decided the apportionment portion of these cases, rejected that argument on the merits. Thus, although the majority opinion did not directly address the merits of the plaintiffs' claim with respect to the Senate, its reasoning applied to the Senate claim would lead to the same conclusion. It is also noteworthy that the three-judge court divided over this issue: whether the undisputed fact that inhabitants of the area that became the District voted for voting representation in the House until 1801 necessarily leads to the conclusion that they thereby secured that right for them and their political posterity. However, until adoption of the 17th Amendment in 1913, neither they, nor anyone else in the United States, voted directly for Senators.

In their opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the defendants conspicuously failed to address the merits of their claims, contending that these cases should be dismissed for lack of standing and because the Speech or Debate Clause precludes this action. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion of Senate Defendants to Dismiss and in Opposition to Motion of Plaintiffs for Summary Judgment in Alexander, et al. v. Daley, et al. at 1 (filed Dec. 18, 1998). The Supreme Court has made clear that courts must resolve questions of standing before any consideration of the merits. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 93-102, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998). Article III of the Constitution requires the following, at a minimum, to establish standing:

First, the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact — an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of — the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party not before the court. Third, it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (internal citations, footnotes and quotations omitted). Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing these elements. Id. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130.

The Secretary of the Senate and the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate assert that the plaintiffs cannot satisfy either the causation or redressability prongs of the standing inquiry. With respect to causation, the Senate defendants argue that the plaintiffs' injury cannot fairly be traced to the defendants' actions because neither the Secretary nor the Sergeant at Arms has taken, or threatened to take, any action that has, or would, interfere with the plaintiffs' exercise of their claimed right to vote for and elect a Senator. Senate Motion to Dismiss at 6. In particular, the defendants point to the following facts: (1) the Sergeant at Arms has never refused to admit to the floor of the Senate any person purporting to represent the District; (2) the Secretary has never refused to record the election of a Senator elected by the inhabitants of the District; (3) the Secretary has never refused to pay the salary of a Senator elected by the inhabitants of the District; (4) although the Secretary has never sent the mayor of the District a model certificate for recording the election of a Senator, if the District were to elect a Senator, it could send a certificate to the Senate that did not follow the model form; (5) the Senate, not the Sergeant at Arms or the Secretary, decides whether to recognize an individual as a duly appointed or elected Member of the Senate, who is thereby, inter alia, entitled to be admitted to the floor of the Senate and paid; (6) neither the Secretary nor the Sergeant at Arms has taken any action, nor could they, that prevents District residents from holding an election for Senator; (7) the District of Columbia Board of Elections has never conducted, or stated an intent to conduct, an election for a Senator; and (8) the laws of the District of Columbia do not authorize the District of Columbia Board of Elections to conduct such an election. All of these facts, the defendants argue, demonstrate that the causal link between the defendants' conduct and the plaintiffs' injury is too attenuated to satisfy the causation requirement of Article III standing.

The plaintiffs argue that the actions of the Senate defendants satisfy the causation element of standing because they "enforce the statutes, rules and determinations that prevent District citizens from being represented in the . . . Senate." Alexander Plaintiffs Consolidated Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Motions To Dismiss, and Reply in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment at 32 (filed Feb. 8, 1999). Plaintiffs also argue that the fact that the Senate officers have never refused to admit to the floor, record the certificate for, or pay a person purporting to be a Senator elected by the District is not determinative because "defendants' undisputed intent to enforce the exclusion of District representatives from Congress satisfies the traceability requirement." Id. at 33. Plaintiffs assert that holding an ...


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