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There is no specific time allotment. The US Constitution contains a provision, Article V, that allows for future Amendments to the document as circumstances require. The text specifies where the proposed Amendment originates (Congress); the required portion of votes need to send the proposal to the states (two-thirds of both the House and Senate); and how ratification is completed (by approval in the legislatures or conventions of three-fourths of the states). The primary constraint is that Congress cannot deprive the states of an equal vote in the Senate.

Article V

"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 two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress: Provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article, and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate."

As with other parts of the Constitution, the framers left considerable latitude for implementing the Article.

The 18th Amendment

On December 18, 1917, Congress approved the proposed 18th Amendment, popularly known as Prohibition, which would create a national ban on the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, and exportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes (liquor was also used for medicinal purposes). The legislation was released to the states with a seven-year deadline for consideration and voting to support or deny ratification.

By January 16, 1919, thirty-six states had ratified the proposal, and the 18th Amendment was officially adopted on that day, to take effect one year later, on January 17, 1920. The Secretary of State announced the new Amendment to the public on January 29, 1920.

In October of that year Congress passed the National Prohibition Act (also called the Volstead Act) as a way of executing the 18th Amendment by outlining the rule of law and affixing penalties for its violation. Although President Wilson vetoed the legislation, Congress overrode his veto.

Dillon v. Gloss, 256 US 368 (1921)

On January 18, 1920, Dillon was arrested for transporting alcohol in violation of Title II of the Volstead Act and petitioned the District Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Dillon's attorney contested the arrest as unconstitutional on the grounds that Congress had affixed a deadline for ratification, which they had never done in the past, and which wasn't approved by Article V. He also claimed his client was apprehended prematurely, because the law wasn't intended to take effect until one year following the Amendment's adoption, which he calculated as January 30, 1920.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which made two important declarations:

  1. That Article V implies an amendment must be ratified, if at all, within a reasonable time following its proposal; and
  2. barring a specific constitutional prohibition, Congress had the right to set a time limit on ratification to ensure a timely decision.

They also upheld January 16 as the date of adoption, which meant Dillon was arrested one day after the law took affect. Therefore, his conviction was affirmed.

(Dillon v. Gloss, (1921) becomes important in the next section.)

The Child Labor Amendment

In 1924, Congress proposed and approved the Child Labor Amendment, which gave the United States government the "power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age." It also contained a provision that the Amendment would supersede any relevant state laws.

The legislation proved to be unpopular with the states, enough of which voted "no" that the resolution was effectively rejected by the end of 1925. Kansas was one of the states that voted "nay," and their vote was recorded as such.

In 1937, Kansas had a change of heart about their vote on the Child Labor Amendment, and attempted to reawaken the proposal by introducing "Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 3" in the Kansas State Senate. The vote ended in a tie of 20 Yeahs and 20 Nays, which was broken by the State's Lt. Governor, who voted to support the measure.

Those opposed to the Amendment petitioned the State court for a writ of mandamus ordering the vote erased, and challenging the right of the Lt. Governor to cast the deciding vote. The petition also argued that the proposed Amendment had only been ratified by five states between 1924 and 1927, and was effectively dead.

Those in favor of the Amendment argued that, since Congress hadn't affixed a time limit for approval, their revised vote should be accepted on the record, despite 13 years having passed since the original proposal was submitted to the States.

The State Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus. Opponents of the legislation appealed the state ruling to the Supreme Court, while proponents of the legislation challenged the Court's jurisdiction to review the case, claiming it was solely a state matter.

Coleman v. Miller, 307 US 433 (1939)

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari, asserting its jurisdiction over the case because it involved an amendment to the US Constitution.

Chief Justice Hughes, in delivering the opinion of the Court, cited the earlier decision in Dillon v. Gloss, (1921), in which the Court determined Congress had the right to affix a deadline to the ratification process. It did not follow, however, that a lack of time frame implied the Amendment retained its vitality indefinitely, nor did it impose responsibility on the Court for determining what constituted a "reasonable amount of time" in terms of satisfying the implied terms of Article V.

Further, Hughes wrote, "The Congress, in controlling the promulgation of the adoption of a constitutional amendment, has the final determination of the question whether, by lapse of time, its proposal of the amendment had lost its vitality before being adopted by the requisite number of legislatures."

Kansas had already voted "nay" on the proposed Amendment in 1925. The precedent involved in attempting to reverse a vote had been set relative to New York's vote on the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1869, in which New York first voted to approve the proposal, then attempted to withdraw its ratification in January 1870. Although New York's vote was not needed to pass the Amendment, the Secretary of State included New York on the list of ratifying states, effectively determining "...a state can act but once, either by convention or through its legislature."

Finally, the Court declared that answering the question of time involved analysis of relevant political, societal, and economic conditions, which was "not within the appropriate range of evidence for judicial opinion."

The Supreme Court determined the length of time allowed for ratification was a political, not judicial, question, and refused to contravene the Congressional right to determine the status of legislation. The Court did not rule on the proper length of time from proposal to ratification, but left the answer to Congress.

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Q: How long after an Amendment has been proposed must it be ratified according to the US Supreme Court?
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How many amendments to the US constitutionh have been replaced by other amendments?

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What is necessary for an amendment be added to the U.S. constitution?

It is not necessary to amend the Constitution. It is a complete document. From time to time, people felt it would be beneficial to amend the Constitution in order to clarify the intent of the original Constitution.

Did the constitution have to be ratified by the supreme court?


Who aproves admendments to the constitution?

The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. The Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States).

What scenario best illustrates the principle of checks and balances?

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