Hawke v. Smith

253 U.S. 221 (1920)

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Hawke v. Smith

United States Supreme Court
253 U.S. 221 (1920)

Facts

George Hawke (plaintiff), an Ohio resident, filed a suit seeking to order Ohio Secretary of State Harvey Smith (defendant) to halt the issuance of ballots for a statewide referendum. The Eighteenth Amendment, which covered prohibition of alcoholic beverages, was in the process of being enacted. Congress had given the states power to enact prohibition by their own concurrent legislation. When three-fourths of states had ratified the proposed amendment, it would then be ratified into the federal Constitution. Ohio’s legislature ratified the amendment, making Ohio among 36 states to do so, which caused the United States secretary of state to proclaim the Eighteenth Amendment thus ratified. However, Ohio had also passed a right of referendum into its constitution, which included the power of referendum on the ratification of any proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. Hawke sought to stop a referendum against approval of the Eighteenth Amendment, arguing that Ohio’s law conflicted with the US Constitution, which governed the means of ratification and indicated that it would be the legislatures of the various states that would or would not ratify any amendments. At the trial-court level, a ruling was entered against Hawke, for the referendum to proceed. The counterargument was that the power to legislate lay ultimately with the people and that Ohio’s own constitutional amendment was valid. Hawke appealed and was defeated twice more before the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Day, J.)

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