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May 21, 1974


The opinion of the court was delivered by:  Stevens, Circuit Judge, Hoffman, Senior District Judge, and Parsons, District Judge. Stevens, Circuit Judge.


In March of 1972, Congress passed a resolution proposing the "Equal Rights Amendment" to the Constitution of the United States and submitted it to the States. This litigation arises out of a dispute between members of the Illinois General Assembly concerning the question whether action which that body, as a whole, has not yet taken would, if taken, constitute "ratification" of the proposed amendment within the meaning of Article V of the United States Constitution.*fn1 At this juncture of the Illinois legislative process, we are satisfied that the issue which is now presented is not justiciable because it is not ripe for review.

Plaintiffs, duly elected members of the Illinois House of Representatives, brought this action against the Speaker of the House, challenging the constitutionality of Article XIV, Section 4 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 and House Rule 42 of the Illinois House of Representatives, both of which purport to require a three-fifths majority vote in the House before a federal constitutional amendment can be deemed ratified. Plaintiffs ask us to declare that, as a matter of federal constitutional law, ratification by the Illinois General Assembly is effective when a majority of the membership of each branch of the Legislature votes in favor of ratification; they seek an injunction directing the Speaker to certify House passage of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment since the House voted to ratify by more than a majority (but less than three-fifths) of its membership. A three-judge district court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284.*fn2 Oral argument was heard on defendant's Motion to Dismiss and plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn3 We grant the Motion to Dismiss and deny the Motion for Summary Judgment.

The undisputed facts can be briefly summarized.

In 1972, the Illinois Senate adopted a resolution providing for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Presumably that resolution was forwarded to the Illinois House of Representatives, but no action was taken by that body in the 77th Session of the General Assembly. That legislative session having terminated in 1972, the parties agree that the Senate action taken in that session has no legal effect, since both Houses must concur in any effective act of ratification. The ratification process thus was required to begin anew in the 78th Session. In the 78th Session, the process of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment was initiated in the House of Representatives. As far as the record discloses, no action has been requested of, or taken by, the Senate.*fn4

On April 4, 1973, the Illinois House of Representatives voted on its House Joint Resolution No. 14 providing for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment; the vote was 95 in favor of, and 72 against, ratification, a ratio which is more than a majority but less than three-fifths of the membership of that body. In compliance with House Rule 42, the defendant refused to certify the ratification resolution as having passed because it was not supported by a three-fifths vote.

The issue which would be presented if, at the same session of the Illinois General Assembly, the Senate should also pass a ratifying resolution by a majority vote, is not now before us. When plaintiffs' counsel was asked at oral argument why we should not await Senate action to determine whether or not there would be occasion for judicial intervention, we were advised, in effect, that the consideration of the matter in the Senate would be influenced by our interpretation of the law.

Defendant argues, we think with force, that if we may intervene at this stage of the Illinois legislative process, we might with equal justification require committees of either House to act only by majority vote when a question relating to the ratification process is at issue. As federal judges we are satisfied that we may not participate in preliminary stages of a State's legislative process.*fn5

Whatever the legal significance of a majority vote in favor of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by both Houses of the Illinois General Assembly might be, we are now satisfied that we do not have the power to provide the parties with the advisory opinion they seek in this litigation.

The issue which plaintiffs now seek to present is not ripe for review. Unlike the doctrine of standing, which establishes that the plaintiff must have sufficient interest in a case, or the requirement that the controversy must be real and not collusive, the doctrine of ripeness focuses upon the extent to which the controversy has matured at the time of the litigation. In Longshoremen's Union v. Boyd, 347 U.S. 222, 74 S.Ct. 447, 98 L.Ed. 650, the Supreme Court refused to adjudicate the constitutionality of a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 which the District Director of I.N.S. construed so as to treat aliens domiciled in the continental United States returning from work in Alaska as if they were aliens entering the United States for the first time. The plaintiffs were a union and some of its alien members who argued that the purported construction of the statute threatened to violate the property rights of alien fishermen who ordinarily worked in Alaskan waters. Writing for the Court, Justice Frankfurther explained the Court's unwillingness to decide the merits, saying that the case "is not a lawsuit to enforce a right; it is an endeavor to obtain a court's assurance that a statute does not govern hypothetical situations that may or may not make the statute applicable." 347 U.S. at 224, 74 S.Ct. at 448.*fn6

The doctrine, then, is one which avoids the decision of an issue which may be mooted before the decision is anything but advisory in character. This is exactly the difficulty with plaintiffs' case. If the Illinois Senate fails to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment before the end of the 78th Session, no controversy will exist. Article V of the United States Constitution requires ratification of amendments by the "Legislatures of three fourths of the several States."*fn7 The Legislature of the State of Illinois has not yet taken any action which is claimed to constitute "ratification" within the meaning of Article V. Until the entire Legislature, including both of its Houses, has acted, the question whether its action, whatever form it may have taken when completed, will constitute "ratification" cannot appropriately be addressed by us.

We hold that the case is not ripe for review. Accordingly, the complaint must be dismissed.

Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is denied; defendant's Motion to Dismiss is hereby granted.

This cause came before the Court on plaintiffs' motion to vacate the order of May 21, 1974, dismissing the complaint. Additionally, plaintiffs seek to ...

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