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Sailors v. Board of Education

U.S.
May 22, 1967
387 U.S. 105 (1967)

Summary

holding that "the principle of 'one man, one vote' has no relevancy" to appointive selection schemes

Summary of this case from Butts v. Aultman

Opinion

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN.

No. 430.

Argued April 17-18, 1967. Decided May 22, 1967.

Appellants brought this suit seeking, inter alia, to enjoin as violative of the Fourteenth Amendment enforcement of a Michigan statute under which appellee school board and other county school boards are chosen — not by the electors of the county, but by delegates from the local boards from candidates nominated by school electors. A three-judge district court, rejecting appellants' contention that the system paralleled the county-unit system invalidated in Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, dismissed the complaint. Held:

1. A three-judge court was properly convened since the challenged statute has general and statewide application. Moody v. Flowers, ante, p. 97, distinguished. P. 107.

2. There is no constitutional reason why nonlegislative state or local officials may not be chosen otherwise than by elections. The functions of appellee school board are essentially administrative and the elective-appointive system used to select its members is well within the State's latitude in the selection of such officials. Pp. 107-111.

254 F. Supp. 17, affirmed.

Wendell A. Miles argued the cause for appellants. With him on the brief was Roger D. Anderson.

Paul O. Strawhecker argued the cause for appellees and filed a brief for Kentwood Public Schools. With him on the brief for the Board of Education of the County of Kent was George R. Cook. On the brief for appellee the Attorney General of Michigan, were Robert A. Derengoski, Solicitor General, and Eugene Krasicky, Assistant Attorney General.

Francis X. Beytagh, Jr., argued the cause pro hac vice for the United States, as amicus curiae, urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Marshall, Assistant Attorney General Doar and Bruce J. Terris.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General, pro se, and Daniel M. Cohen, Robert W. Imrie and George D. Zuckerman, Assistant Attorneys General, for the Attorney General of the State of New York, and by Morris H. Schneider and Seymour S. Ross for the County of Nassau.


Appellants, qualified and registered electors of Kent County, Michigan, brought this suit in the Federal District Court to enjoin the Board of Education of Kent County from detaching certain schools from the city of Grand Rapids and attaching them to Kent County, to declare the county board to be unconstitutionally constituted, and to enjoin further elections until the electoral system is redesigned. Attack is also made on the adequacy of the statutory standards governing decisions of the county board in light of the requirements of due process. We need not bother with the intricate problems of state law involved in the dispute. For the federal posture of the case is a very limited one. The people of Michigan (qualified school electors) elect the local school boards. No constitutional question is presented as respects those elections. The alleged constitutional questions arise when it comes to the county school board. It is chosen, not by the electors of the county, but by delegates from the local boards. Each board sends a delegate to a biennial meeting and those delegates elect a county board of five members, who need not be members of the local boards, from candidates nominated by school electors. It is argued that this system of choosing county board members parallels the county-unit system which we invalidated under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, and violates the principle of "one man, one vote" which we held in that case and in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, was constitutionally required in state elections. A vast array of facts is assembled showing alleged inequities in a system which gives one vote to every local school board (irrespective of population, wealth, etc.) in the selection of the county board. A three-judge court was convened, and it held by a divided vote that the method of constitution of the county board did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. 254 F. Supp. 17. We noted probable jurisdiction, 385 U.S. 966.

In Michigan the members of the local school district's board are elected by popular vote of the residents of the district. See Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3023 (1959); Mich. Stat. Ann. §§ 15.3027, 15.3055, 15.3056, 15.3107, 15.3148, 15.3188, 15.3511 (Supp. 1965).

Mich. Stat. Ann. §§ 15.3294(1), 15.3295(1) (Supp. 1965). By Mich. Stat. Ann. §§ 15.3294(2)-15.3294(6) (Supp. 1965), members of the county board may be chosen at popular elections provided the board submits the matter to a referendum and the people approve. So far as we are advised, no such referendum has been held; and the membership of the county board, here challenged, was constituted by electors chosen by the local boards.

We conclude that a three-judge court was properly convened, for unlike the situation in Moody v. Flowers, ante, p. 97, this is a case where the state statute that is challenged applies generally to all Michigan county school boards of the type described.

Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3294(1) (Supp. 1965).

We start with what we said in Reynolds v. Sims, supra, at 575:

"Political subdivisions of States — counties, cities, or whatever — never were and never have been considered as sovereign entities. Rather, they have been traditionally regarded as subordinate governmental instrumentalities created by the State to assist in the carrying out of state governmental functions. As stated by the Court in Hunter v. City of Pittsburgh, 207 U.S. 161, 178, these governmental units are `created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the governmental powers of the State as may be entrusted to them.' and the `number, nature and duration of the powers conferred upon [them] . . . and the territory over which they shall be exercised rests in the absolute discretion of the State.'"

We find no constitutional reason why state or local officers of the nonlegislative character involved here may not be chosen by the governor, by the legislature, or by some other appointive means rather than by an election. Our cases have, in the main, dealt with elections for United States Senator or Congressman ( Gray v. Sanders, supra; Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1) or for state officers ( Gray v. Sanders, supra) or for state legislators. Reynolds v. Sims, supra; WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo, 377 U.S. 633; Davis v. Mann, 377 U.S. 678; Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695; Lucas v. Colorado Gen. Assembly, 377 U.S. 713; Marshall v. Hare, 378 U.S. 561.

The officers in Gray v. Sanders were: U.S. Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Justice of the Supreme Court, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Comptroller General, Commissioner of Labor, and Treasurer.

They were all cases where elections had been provided and cast no light on when a State must provide for the election of local officials.

A State cannot of course manipulate its political subdivisions so as to defeat a federally protected right, as for example, by realigning political subdivisions so as to deny a person his vote because of race. Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 345. Yet as stated in Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. 204, 226:

Nor can the restraints imposed by the Constitution on the States be circumvented by local bodies to whom the State delegates authority. Standard Computing Scale Co. v. Farrell, 249 U.S. 571, 577; Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 17.

"The science of government is the most abstruse of all sciences; if, indeed, that can be called a science which has but few fixed principles, and practically consists in little more than the exercise of a sound discretion, applied to the exigencies of the state as they arise. It is the science of experiment."

If we assume arguendo that where a State provides for an election of a local official or agency, the requirements of Gray v. Sanders and Reynolds v. Sims must be met, we are still short of an answer to the present problem and that is whether Michigan may allow its county school boards to be appointed.

When we stated ". . . the state legislatures have constitutional authority to experiment with new techniques" ( Day-Brite Lighting, Inc. v. Missouri, 342 U.S. 421, 423), we were talking about the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as was Mr. Justice Holmes, dissenting in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 75, when he said ". . . a constitution is not intended to embody . . . the organic relation of the citizen to the State. . . ." But as we indicated in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, supra, it is precisely that same approach that we have taken when it comes to municipal and county arrangements within the framework of a State. Save and unless the state, county, or municipal government runs afoul of a federally protected right, it has vast lee-way in the management of its internal affairs.

The Michigan system for selecting members of the county school board is basically appointive rather than elective. We need not decide at the present time whether a State may constitute a local legislative body through the appointive rather than the elective process. We reserve that question for other cases such as Board of Supervisors v. Bianchi, ante, p. 97, which we have disposed of on jurisdictional grounds. We do not have that question here, as the County Board of Education performs essentially administrative functions; and while they are important, they are not legislative in the classical sense.

The delegates from the local school boards, not the school electors, select the members of the county school board. While the school electors elect the members of the local school boards Page 110 and the local school boards, in turn, select delegates to attend the meeting at which the county board is selected, the delegates need not cast their votes in accord with the expressed preferences of the school electors. There is not even a formal method by which a delegate can determine the preferences of the people in his district. It is evident, therefore, that the membership of the county board is not determined, directly or indirectly, through an election in which the residents of the county participate. The "electorate" under the Michigan system is composed not of the people of the county, but the delegates from the local school boards.

The authority of the county board includes the appointment of a county school superintendent (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(b) (Supp. 1965)), preparation of an annual budget and levy of taxes (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(c) (Supp. 1965)), distribution of delinquent taxes (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(d) (Supp. 1965)), furnishing consulting or supervisory services to a constituent school district upon request (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(g) (Supp. 1965)), conducting cooperative educational programs on behalf of constituent school districts which request such services (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(i) (Supp. 1965)), and with other intermediate school districts (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(j) (Supp. 1965)), employment of teachers for special educational programs (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(h) (Supp. 1965)), and establishing, at the direction of the Board of Supervisors, a school for children in the juvenile homes (Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3298(1)(k) (Supp. 1965)). One of the board's most sensitive functions, and the one giving rise to this litigation, is the power to transfer areas from one school district to another. Mich. Stat. Ann. § 15.3461 (1959).

Viable local governments may need many innovations, numerous combinations of old and new devices, great flexibility in municipal arrangements to meet changing urban conditions. We see nothing in the Constitution to prevent experimentation. At least as respects non-legislative officers, a State can appoint local officials or elect them or combine the elective and appointive systems as was done here. If we assume arguendo that where a State provides for an election of a local official or agency — whether administrative, legislative, or judicial — the requirements of Gray v. Sanders and Reynolds v. Sims must be met, no question of that character is presented. For while there was an election here for the local school board, no constitutional complaint is raised respecting that election. Since the choice of members of the county school board did not involve an election and since none was required for these nonlegislative offices, the principle of "one man, one vote" has no relevancy.

Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and MR. JUSTICE STEWART concur in the result.


Summaries of

Sailors v. Board of Education

U.S.
May 22, 1967
387 U.S. 105 (1967)

holding that "the principle of 'one man, one vote' has no relevancy" to appointive selection schemes

Summary of this case from Butts v. Aultman

holding that voters did not have a right to elect the members of the county school board, who were chosen by delegates from the local school boards, noting that "[w]e find no constitutional reason why state or local officers of the nonlegislative character involved here may not be chosen by the governor, by the legislature, or by some other appointive means rather than by an election"

Summary of this case from Moore v. Detroit School Reform Bd.

holding that "unless the state . . . government runs afoul of a federally protected right, it has vast leeway in the management of its internal affairs"

Summary of this case from Municipal Utilities Bd. v. Alabama Power Co.

holding that there was no constitutional reason why nonlegislative state or local officials, like school board members, must be elected

Summary of this case from Hawkins v. Johanns

holding that a county board of education was an appointed body, and not an elected one, when its members were appointed from among a limited pool of individuals elected to other offices

Summary of this case from AGO

In Sailors, we expressly left open the question "whether a State may constitute a local legislative body through the appointive rather than the elective process."

Summary of this case from Rodriguez v. Popular Democratic Party

In Sailors v. Kent Bd. of Education, 387 U.S. 105 (1967), each local school board sent one delegate to a biennial meeting at which the members of the county board of education were selected.

Summary of this case from Kramer v. Union School District

noting that states may not "manipulate [their] political subdivisions so as to defeat a federally protected right, as for example, by realigning political subdivisions so as to deny a person his vote because of race"

Summary of this case from Butts v. Aultman

promoting "innovation[]" and "experimentation" when adopting representative schemes for local governance boards

Summary of this case from Butts v. Aultman

In Sailors v. Board of Education, 387 U.S. 105 (1967), a unanimous Supreme Court upheld Michigan's school board system whereby residents of various school districts elected local school boards, and those local school boards, through delegates, in turn appointed the county school boards.

Summary of this case from Linden v. Hodges

In Sailors, the method for choosing members of the county school board was attacked as denying proportional representation.

Summary of this case from Hoots v. Pennsylvania

In Sailors v. Board of Education, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967), the Supreme Court held that the one man — one vote rule had no relevancy in a case where county school board officials were appointed rather than elected, especially since the board exercised essentially administrative rather than legislative powers.

Summary of this case from City of Atlanta v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

In Sailors v. Board of Education, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967), the Supreme Court found nothing unconstitutional in a Michigan statute providing that county school boards be chosen by delegates from the local school boards who had been elected by the voters of each community. The Court stated: "At least as respects nonlegislative officers, a State can appoint local officials or elect them or combine the elective and appointive systems as was done here."

Summary of this case from Burton v. Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School District

In Sailors v. Board of Education, supra, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650, the Court upheld as constitutional a Michigan statute providing that delegates from local school boards, not the school electors, select the members of the county school board.

Summary of this case from Burton v. Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School District

In Sailors, a county school board was held to perform only "administrative" duties, and was therefore outside the scope of the one person-one vote principle.

Summary of this case from Ripon Society v. National Republican Party

In Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S. Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967) the Court upheld an elective-appointive scheme for a school board whose functions were essentially administrative.

Summary of this case from Dundee v. Orleans Parish Bd. of Supervisors

In Sailors v. Board of Education of County of Kent, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650, the charge was that a state statute was unconstitutional.

Summary of this case from BOARD, ED., SC. DIS. 20, MUSKOGEE v. ST., OK

In Sailors, the Supreme Court stated that it could "find no constitutional reason why state or local officers of the nonlegislative character... may not be chosen by the governor, by the legislature, or by some other appointive means rather than by election."

Summary of this case from Kole v. Faultless

permitting appointment of school board members

Summary of this case from Shapiro v. Berger

In Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967), a Michigan statute provided for the appointment of a county board of education by delegates from the elected local boards.

Summary of this case from Spivey v. State of Ohio

In Sailors, the county school board members were appointed by local school boards which were each constitutionally constituted.

Summary of this case from Hellebust v. Brownback

In Sailors the delegates could select persons to serve on the county board who were not members of a local school board.

Summary of this case from Cunningham v. Municipality of Seattle

In Sailors v. Board of Education, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967), the Court considered a one person, one vote challenge to a county school board.

Summary of this case from Cunningham v. Municipality of Seattle

In Sailors, the Court rejected a constitutional challenge to the biennial selection of county school board members by delegates chosen by local school boards whose members had been elected by the people.

Summary of this case from Morris v. Board of Estimate

In Sailors v. Board of Education of the County of Kent, 387 U.S. 105, 87 S.Ct. 1549, 18 L.Ed.2d 650 (1967), the Supreme Court held that state or local officers of a nonlegislative character may be chosen by means other than election and that in such a case the constitutional requirement as to proportional representation, the principle of "one man, one vote," has no relevancy. 387 U.S. at 111, 87 S.Ct. at 1553.

Summary of this case from City of Atlanta v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit
Case details for

Sailors v. Board of Education

Case Details

Full title:SAILORS ET AL. v . BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE COUNTY OF KENT ET AL

Court:U.S.

Date published: May 22, 1967

Citations

387 U.S. 105 (1967)
87 S. Ct. 1549

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