You are currently viewing Cook v. Gralike, 531 U.S. 510; 121 S. Ct. 1029; 149 L. Ed. 2d 44 (2001)

Cook v. Gralike, 531 U.S. 510; 121 S. Ct. 1029; 149 L. Ed. 2d 44 (2001)

Cook v. Gralike, 531 U.S. 510; 121 S. Ct. 1029; 149 L. Ed. 2d 44 (2001)

Facts—After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton (1995), Missouri adopted a constitutional amendment instructing each member of Congress from the state to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting House of Representatives members to three terms and Senate members to two. The Missouri amendment further provided that ballots would specifically designate incumbents who disregarded such instructions or candidates who failed to support the amendment. A nonincumbent candidate, Don Gralike, sought an injunction prohibiting Missouri’s secretary of state from enforcing the provision. The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment, arguing that the Missouri provision violated the qualifications clause of Article I of the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment rights of free speech. The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court affirmed the District Court decision. Although Gralike withdrew from the election, Harmon, a nonincumbent Republican candidate intervened as the appellee.

Question—Does the Tenth Amendment reserve power to a state to designate candidates opposed to term limits?

Decision—No, such designations are limited by the election clause (Article I, 4, cl. 1) and are not valid time, place, or manner restrictions.

Reasons—J. Stevens (9–0). The court rejected Missouri’s claim that it could give binding instructions to its congressional representatives. Although Missouri showed that some states once issued instructions to their congressional delegates, it failed to show that such instructions were legally binding. Indeed, evidence shows that the right to issue such binding instructions was specifically rejected when the wording of the First Amendment was formulated. Although states have power to regulate the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,” subject to congressional regulations, Missouri’s efforts went beyond “procedural regulations” and were designed to favor or disfavor classes of candidates.

J. Kennedy’s concurring opinion further stressed that Missouri was impermissibly attempting to intrude upon the relationship between the people and their congressional representatives. J. Thomas denied that states were limited to powers designated to them by the Constitution but noted that Missouri had not argued this point. C.J. Rehnquist’s concurrence focused on what he believed to be the First Amendment rights of candidates to run for office without having their names “accompanied by pejorative language requested by the State.”

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