Letter Transmitting to Congress the Attorney General's Opinion on the Minimum Wage Law in the District of Columbia.
Fourteen years have elapsed since the Supreme Court, by its decision in the case of Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U.S. 525, rendered the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Law inoperative. I submit herewith the opinion of the Attorney General which makes clear that the recent decision of the Supreme Court, in the case of West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish, overruling the previous decision, has rendered the statute once more effective.
In view of the long interval during which it was impossible to administer the statute many developments have taken place and the Congress may desire to consider whether the Act should be administered in accordance with its present terms or whether any amendments or other changes are desirable. Under these circumstances I have suggested to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia that they delay, at least until the first of May, the appointment of the Minimum Wage Board, for which the Act makes provision.
Should no action be taken by the Congress in regard to this matter, I assume that the Commissioners of the District of Columbia will appoint a Minimum Wage Board and that such other steps as may be necessary to administer the Act will be taken, including the preparation of estimates for a suitable appropriation.
The Honorable, The President of the Senate
The Attorney General's opinion reads as follows.
My dear Mr. President:
In answer to your request of April 2, 1937, for my opinion respecting the present status of the District of Columbia minimum-wage law, in view of the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish overruling the case of Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U.S. 525, I have the honor to advise you as follows:
The District of Columbia minimum-wage law was approved and became effective on September 18, 1918 (c. 174, 40 Stat. 960). The Act provided for its administration by a Minimum Wage Board to be appointed by the Commissioners of the District of Columbia. It further provided for the organization of the Board and defined its powers and duties. The Board appointed under the statute, acting in pursuance thereof, issued its order prohibiting the employment in the District of Columbia of women or minor girls in certain industries at less than a prescribed wage per month. The Children's Hospital sought to enjoin the Board from enforcing its order against the hospital. An injunction issued was sustained by the Supreme Court in the case of Adkins v. Children's Hospital, decided April 9, 1923, on the ground that the statute was unconstitutional. The effect of this decision was to suspend the further enforcement of the Act.
In the case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, supra, the Supreme Court said, "Our conclusion is that the case of Adkins v. Children's Hospital, supra, should be, and it is overruled."
The decisions are practically in accord in holding that the courts have no power to repeal or abolish a statute, and that notwithstanding a decision holding it unconstitutional a statute continues to remain on the statute books; and that if a statute be declared unconstitutional and the decision so declaring it be subsequently overruled the statute will then be held valid from the date it became effective. Pierce, et al. v. Pierce, 46 Ind., 86, 95; McCollum v. McConaughy (Sup. Ct. Iowa), 119 N. W. 539, 541; Christopher v. Mungen (Sup. Ct. Florida), 55 So. 273, 280; Allison v. Corker, 67 N. J. L. 596, 600; Boyd v. Alabama, 94 U.S. 645, 649; State v. O'Neil, 147 Iowa 513, 515, 520, 523; The Effect of an Unconstitutional Statute by Oliver P. Field, pp. 181, et seq. See also Thomas v. Gilbert, 76 Ohio St. 541; Jackson v. Harris, 43 Fed. (2d) 513, 516; Haskett et al. v. Maxey et al. 134 Ind. 182, 190; Center School Township v. State, 150 Ind. 168, 173; Ray v. Natural Gas Co., 138 Pa. St. 576, 590; Storrie v. Coats, 90 Tex. 283, 291; Hoven v. McCarthy Bros. Co., 163 Minn., 339, 341; Allen v. Allen, 95 Cal. 184, 199; Crigler v. Shepler, 79 Kan. 834, 840; Adkins v. Children's Hospital, supra 544. 7 R. C. L., p. 1010.
It is, therefore, my opinion that the District of Columbia minimum wage law is now a valid act of the Congress and may be administered in accordance with its terms.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter Transmitting to Congress the Attorney General's Opinion on the Minimum Wage Law in the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209451