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08/24/77 OPINION JUSTICES TO SENATE

August 24, 1977

OPINION OF THE JUSTICES TO THE SENATE


Edward F. Hennessey, Francis J. Quirico, Robert Braucher, Benjamin Kaplan, Herbert P. Wilkins, Paul J. Liacos, Ruth I. Abrams.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Constitutional Law, Amendment of the Federal Constitution, Opinions of the Justices. Governor. Supreme Judicial Court, Opinions of the Justices. Words, "Legislatures."

The signature of the Governor is not required under art. V of the Federal Constitution to a resolution, if adopted by the Massachusetts Legislature, applying to Congress to call a convention for proposing Amendments to the Constitution; the word "Legislatures" in the application clause of art. V does not mean the whole legislative process of the State. [878-879]

The Justices declined to answer hypothetical questions propounded by the Senate respecting the calling by Congress of constitutional conventions on the applications of Legislatures [879-880]; and respecting the power of the Massachusetts Legislature to limit the "agenda" of a constitutional convention [880-881].

A resolution pending before the Massachusetts Legislature that it petition the Congress to call a convention for the purpose of proposing a specified amendment to the Constitution of the United States was an "Application" to Congress within the meaning of art. V of the Constitution, and related to a present duty of the Legislature and presented a solemn occasion. [881-882]

On August 24, 1977, the Justices submitted the following answers to questions propounded to them by the Senate.

To the Honorable the Senate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court respectfully submit these responses to the questions set forth in an order adopted by the Senate on June 7, 1977. The order recites that there is pending before the Senate a resolution "calling for a national constitutional convention to consider an amendment to the Constitution to protect the right to life of human beings" (House No. 5984). A copy of the resolution, submitted with the order, refers to "all" human beings, "including their unborn offspring at every stage of their biological development."

The order further recites that grave doubt exists as to the constitutionality of the resolution if adopted, and propounds the following questions:

"1. Does the resolution require the signature of the Governor?

"2. Would the resolution, if adopted in concert with two thirds of the other States, require Congress to call a national constitutional convention, or is it merely a request?

"3. Has the Massachusetts legislature the power to limit the agenda of the constitutional convention to the single issue proposed by the resolution?"

In response to our invitation for briefs, a brief was filed by the Attorney General.

1. The first question is whether the resolution calling for a national convention requires the signature of the Governor under art. V of the United States Constitution. Article V provides: "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution or, on the Application of the Legislatures of ...


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