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Opinion of the Justices

Supreme Court of Delaware

October 23, 1961

OPINION OF THE JUSTICES of the Supreme Court in Response to a Question Propounded by the Governor of Delaware.

To His Excellency Elbert N. Carvel, Governor of Delaware:

The Justices of the Supreme Court refer to your letter dated September 19, 1961, addressed to the Chief Justice, propounding a question upon which the opinions of the Justices are requested, pursuant to the provisions of 29 Del.C. § 2102.

The facts giving rise to the question are set forth in your letter as follows:

'A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, passed by the House of Representatives, passed by the Senate, [54 Del. 165] returned to the House of Representatives by the Senate, delivered to the Governor by the Chairman of the Passed Bills Committee of the House and then recalled from the Governor by a House Resolution on the 10th day after which the bill was delivered to the Governor. I returned the bill to the Chairman of the Passed Bills Committee of the House pursuant to the request of the Resolution.'

The question to be answered is:

'Can this bill be legally recalled from the Governor by the unilateral action of the House of Representatives, or did it automatically become law since not vetoed by the Governor?'

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Our constitution has no provision dealing specifically with the right of the General Assembly, or of one house thereof, to recall from the Executive a bill which has passed both houses and has been delivered to the Governor in accordance with the provisions of Section 18 of Article III.

Nevertheless the answer to your question is implicit in the provisions for the passage of legislation. Any bill or joint resolution requires for passage the concurrence of a majority of all the members elected to each House. Article II, Section 10. The delivery of the bill to the Governor is based upon the joint action of the two houses. If any subsequent legislative action can lawfully be taken to affect the status of the bill in the Governor's hands (a question not presented to us), it must likewise be joint action. In our opinion one house has no such power of recall, even with the Governor's consent.

Such legal precedent as we have found supports this view.

In People v. Devlin, 33 N.Y. 269, the facts were similar to those set forth by you. A bill had passed both houses of the legislature and was duly delivered to the Governor. On the next day the assembly (the lower house) requested its return. The Governor complied, stating in his message that it was returned at the request of the assembly. Further proceedings[54 Del. 166] then ensued. The house attempted to strike out a certain section of the bill, and the Senate refused to agree. After adjournment without further action, the bill was sent to the Governor by the Clerk in its original form, and he signed it.

The validity of the act was questioned on the ground that it had never finally passed both houses of the legislature. To this two answers were made: (1) that the enrolled bill could not be impeached by examination of the legislative journals, and (2) that even if the court had the power to go back of the enrolled bill and examine the journals, it must be determined that the bill had not been effectively recalled. The court agreed with both contentions. As to the latter it said:

'The law had its origin in the assembly. The bill was introduced and was considered in all its stages, and passed and sent to the senate for concurrence. It met the approval of the senate, and was passed by that house without amendment, and after such passage, was returned to the assembly, was signed by the presiding officers and sent to the governor. This was according to well-established parliamentary usage and law. The legislature had declared its will. No further separate action was required or allowed. The streams issuing from senate and assembly fountains had flowed together and were now united in one. The united action of both houses would be necessary to recall the bill.'

The court also said:

'This bill had passed both houses and been sent to the governor for his approval. The recall by the assembly was an infringement of parliamentary law. It was an attempt to do alone what if it could be done at all, ...


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