Supreme Court of the United States
Case No. 15–13, 100 M.S.Ct. 107
SancteAmbrosi, J. delivered the opinion of the Court, in which CincinnatusofthWest, cmac__17, JJ. and the Chief Justice joined.
Before this Court stand several questions regarding the constitutionality of the above-captioned law. This law was passed by Congress in an attempt to create guidelines for educators as it pertains to reproductive health. Education, while largely left to the several States, has long been an interest of the federal government and many laws already exist providing various guidelines, restrictions, and programs for the education of children in the United States.
Subsequent to the passage of this law, the Senator from Western State, then a Representative, came before this Court under the Constitution of the Model United States, which then stated that any Member of Congress may bring challenge before the Court. This Court now considers these questions.
1. Whether Section 2(a) of Public Law B.138 infringes upon the Tenth Amendment by attempting to coerce states to adopt a desired federal policy as prohibited by this Court in South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), considering the law threatens to eventually withhold fifty-five percent (55%) of federal education funding if a state fails to comply.
The law in question threatens to withhold increasing amounts of federal funds for education if a State should choose not to comply with its provisions. This withholding contains a cap of 55%. Petitioner asserts that such is a violation under this Court’s ruling in Dole. It would seem that such a large percentage of withholding violates the fifth prong of the Dole test: that the condition must not be coercive. Under general principle, to cut over one-half of the funding to a program is so great that it would be coercive. However, it must be repeated for clarity’s sake that the condition within the law in question withholds up to 55% of federal funding.
In order for this Court to determine whether the withholding amount is coercive, we must consider not the base amount of funding withheld, but the amount of total funding such withholding constitutes. The Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation has given the statistic that the typical highway project is funded 80% by federal funds. Thus, the total funds withheld from the program as condition in Dole would have been approximately 4%.
We must, then, apply the same principle to the current law. According to the Department of Education, the current amount of education funding from the federal government is approximately 10.8%. Thus, the law in question amounts to up to approximately 5.9% of the total funding. This is less than 2% more than the amount in Dole.
Therefore, considering the minimal amount withheld by the government, we answer this question in the negative.
2. Whether the conditions imposed upon states under Public Law B.138 are ambiguous and overly vague so as to render them unconstitutional.
Petitioner then moves on to ask whether the provisions of the law should be held as unconstitutionally vague. However, Petitioner fails to assert what, if any, words Petitioner considers to be vague and by what reason they are to be so. As such, in order to answer this question, the Court must consider the contents as a whole. The Petitioner does, however, restrict the assertion to the conditions imposed upon the State and thus shall this Court do likewise.
The condition imposed upon the State under this law is singular and found in Section II thereof. In this Section, the law states that schools failing to comply with the standards of the subsequent Sections shall have funding decreased by 7.5% of yearly funding until implementation or until the amount withheld reaches 55% of federal funding. Normatively, the Void for Vagueness Doctrine is applied to criminal statutes as a violation of a person’s due process. See Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 385 (1926). However, this Court has previously applied the doctrine to civil penalties. See Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, 501 U.S. 1030 (1991); see also Arnett v. Kennedy, 416 U.S. 134 (1974).
In considering the language of this Section, we see a specific penalty, being the withholding of 7.5% of yearly funding effective on the date of the passage of the law and increasing until it reaches a maximum of 55% of such funding. However, the law does not delineate a rate of increase or timeline for such an increase. This is the only condition on which the condition is vague and now it befalls us to determine if such vagueness is impermissible. This vagueness leaves to the Executive Branch the ability to determine by what rate such withholding shall increase and when, if at all, the withholding should reach its maximum amount.
As was noted earlier, the notion of vagueness in civil issues derives from the criminal right of due process. In criminal statutes, we see penalties with ranges and discretions left to the judiciary by which the convicted is sentenced. There is rarely a guarantee of a specific penalty for a singular crime. However, minimum and maximum penalties are easily known to any who desires to know such.
Therefore, considering that the condition clearly delineates the minimum and maximum expectation in penalty, this Court must answer in the negative.
3. Whether Public Law B.138 exceeds the authority of Congress under both the Commerce and Spending Clauses, in accordance with the standards outlined by this Court in United States v. Alfonso D. Lopez, Jr., 514 U.S. 549 (1995).
United States v. Lopez regards private acts committed in or on school property and does not regard the matter of education itself. Further, it speaks as to powers under the Commerce Clause alone and not the Spending Clause. Thirdly, the matter of education is a well established area of legislation for the federal government. As such, it is inapplicable and the Court answers in the negative.
4. Whether the entire premise of Public Law B.138 is unconstitutional as Congress is attempting to impose itself in a realm traditionally left to states under the Tenth Amendment — the development of curriculum in public schools.
As stated under Question 3, Congress’s power to regulate in the area of education is well established. This is not even near the first educational program or initiative put forth by the federal government. This Court will not now overturn this ability. We answer in the negative.
5. Whether Public Law B.138 can survive at all without an enforcement mechanism if Section 2(a) is deemed unconstitutional.
The Court need not address this question.
6. Whether Section 6 constitutes forced speech upon teachers and other school staff and faculty as deemed unconstitutional by this Court in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
Board of Education v. Barnette applies to the protections of students and is wholly irrelevant to the question. Further, the legislation in question makes requirements of the schools to provide a course of education, it does not make requirements of the students in the school to participate in such courses. As such, the Court answers in the negative.
7. Whether Section 6 will unconstitutionally infringe upon the right of states to allow for academic freedom, and whether it will have a chilling effect on free speech as ruled unconstitutional by this Court in Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965).
The facts of the case in Lamont v. Postmaster General have nothing to do with the educational system, and the rights of private recipients of mailings are much broader than teachers acting in a professional and public capacity, as has been addressed by this Court in several cases already referenced. As such, the Court answers in the negative.
In conclusion, all of Petitioner’s questions are answered by this Court in the negative and the law in question shall stand in its entirety.
It is so ordered.
taterdatuba, J. dissented without opinion.