About Ashwander v. TVA

About Ashwander v. TVA


Gary Hunt

Outpost of Freedom

January 9, 2006


There has been s lot of discussion about Agencies, immunity, privilege, etc., and much of each argument has merit. So far, however, I haven’t seen any discussion on how the nature of the person and the court is established, and then, by what rules that relationship proceeds.


Many years ago, I became aware of what I believe to be the most damning of the Supreme Court decisions – at least, with regard to our liberties (rights, too!). In fact, a few of us coined a term to reflect what had happened when you found yourself without recourse. “Ashwanderized” was the term, and how we got to be Ashwanderized became the subject of study.


Before I continue, I will mention an instance where I had forgotten all about this aspect (due to the urgency of the situation, I think) and found myself, and others, beaten by this omission. The Court (Judge Walter Smith) ruled that we “had not exhausted all administrative remedies”, therefore he was denying our Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus. Unfortunately, the Bar attorney, acting in a non-bar capacity, was not versed on this matter and it did not occur to me. We pondered what remedies we had failed to pursue, and it wasn’t until it was too late that it occurred to me that we had not taken precautions against this eventuality.


I have, however, understanding Ashwander, managed to use Habeas Corpus to remove myself from jurisdiction. This came to me one evening, facing court the next morning, while pondering the question, “How do I get myself into Common Law jurisdiction? I realized that it was not Common Law that I wanted to get into, rather it was Common Law that I wanted to get out of.


That aside, for now, below are the seven (7) rules developed by the Supreme Court in dealing with Ashwander v. T.V.A. [297 U.S. 288 (1936)]. Though all are damning, to a degree, with regard to the current subject, pay particular attention to #4 and #6.

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“The Court developed, for its own governance in the cases confessedly within its jurisdiction, a series of rules under which it has avoided passing upon a large part of all the constitutional questions pressed upon it for decision.


They are:


“1. The Court will not pass upon the constitutionality of legislation in a friendly, nonadversary, proceeding, declining because to decide such questions ‘is legitimate only in the last resort, and as a necessity in the determination of real, earnest, and vital controversy between individuals…


“2. The Court will not ‘anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it… ‘It is not the habit of the court to decide questions of a constitutional nature unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case…


“3. The Court will not formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied….


“4. The Court will not pass upon a constitutional question although properly presented by the record, if there is also present some other ground upon which the case may be disposed of. This rule has found most varied application. Thus, if a case can be decided on either of two grounds, one involving a constitutional question, the other a question of statutory construction or general law, the Court will decide only the latter… Appeals from the highest court of a state challenging its decision of a question under the Federal Constitution are frequently dismissed because the judgment can be sustained on an independent state ground…


“5. The Court will not pass upon the validity of a statute upon complaint of one who fails to show that he is injured by its operation… Among the many applications of this rule, none is more striking than the denial of the right of challenge to one who lacks a personal or property right…


“6. The Court will not pass upon the constitutionality of a statute at the instance of one who has availed himself of its benefits…


“7. ‘When the validity of an act of the Congress is drawn in question, and even if a serious doubt of constitutionality is raised, it is a cardinal principle that this Court will first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the question may be avoided…

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It would appear that a public servant, who felt that his duties violated the Constitution, could not get the Court to make a determination as to the Constitutionality of that duty. For example, if one of Hitler’s SS troops felt that he was being told to do something that he perceived as a violation of the Constitution, he would have no standing to ask the Court for a determination. He would be compelled, by law, to “just do his job”. (Number 5)


Once a person seeks a benefit from an agency (Social Security, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Motor Vehicles, Welfare, Child Protective Services, etc.), he is no longer protected by the Constitution, for the supreme Court will rule that, since he has availed himself of its benefits, he is bound by that agency’s rules (number 6)


The First Amendment, Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In effect, the Court has removed itself as a means of ‘redress of grievances, by allowing itself to ‘rule’ that they will not answer questions regarding the Constitutionality of laws, enactments, or rules promulgated by agencies (whether in violation of the Constitution, or not).



If you read the entire case, you will see that it hinges on Administrative Agencies. Basically, if anybody has sought a benefit from an Administrative Agency, they have developed a relationship with the agency. In so doing, it has accepted the rules (statutory construction or general law, see #4) that the agency has adopted. This allows the court to sidestep reviewing the Constitutionality of the matter (see #6).

It should be easy, after reading the above, to begin to understand what has happened to “privileges and immunities.” They are still there, though they are difficult to find.


Gary Hunt,

Outpost of Freedom



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5 Responses to “About Ashwander v. TVA”

  1. Jim Higginbotham says:

    it would seem we the people are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t.
    we either have a constitution to be OBEYED by all or we don’t.
    Semper Fi.

  2. […] another one of those Administrative (alphabet soup) Agencies doing something unconstitutional and blatantly illegal? I’ve never heard of that before! Or […]

  3. […] Our Constitution is written in a single document, with amendments in addition to the original. However, the Supreme Court will not pass on the constitutionality of a matter before it “unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case”. In other words, only as a last resort. This was explained to the country in a 1936 Supreme Court decision, Ashwander v. T.V.A. […]

  4. […] To understand the role of the Supreme Court, at least for nearly the past century, we need to review what Justice Brandeis explained in Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority (1936), in which he explained the “rules” that the Court had adopted to avoid “passing upon a large part of all constitutional questions pressed upon it for decision.”  (See About Ashwander v. TVA) […]

  5. […] To understand the role of the Supreme Court, at least for nearly the past century, we need to review what Justice Brandeis explained in Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority (1936), in which he explained the “rules” that the Court had adopted to avoid “passing upon a large part of all constitutional questions pressed upon it for decision.”  (See About Ashwander v. TVA) […]

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