Dillon v. Gloss

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Dillon v. Gloss
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 22, 1921
Decided May 16, 1921
Full case name Dillon v. Gloss, Deputy Collector
Citations 256 U.S. 368 (more)
Prior history 262 Fed. 563
Congress may set a deadline for the ratification of new amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but it is not required.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Van Devanter, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
Article V of the Constitution

Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368 (1921)[1], was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that if the United States Congress—when proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States—desires to place a deadline on that particular constitutional amendment's ratification, that Congress may indeed do precisely that and further that Congress' selection of a seven-year time constraint upon the ratification of what later became the Constitution's 18th Amendment was not deemed to be unreasonable by the Court.

The Justices did not rule that Congress must impose a such deadline, merely that Congress may do so if Congress so desires and that Article V of the Constitution is not violated by the imposition of such a time constraint.


Dillon had been arrested pursuant to the National Prohibition Act, title 2, § 3, and was in custody under § 26. He was denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and appealed the denial. Dillon claimed that the Eighteenth Amendment was inoperative since it had not been ratified within the time frame set by the congressional resolution proposing the amendment. Dillon also claimed that the law was not in effect at the time the crime was committed, nor at the time of his arrest.


First, proposal and ratification are not treated as unrelated acts but as succeeding steps in a single endeavor, the natural inference being that they are not to be widely separated in time. Secondly, it is only when there is deemed to be a necessity therefor that amendments are to be proposed, the reasonable implication being that when proposed they are to be considered and disposed of presently. Thirdly, as ratification is but the expression of the approbation of the people and is to be effective when had in three-fourths of the States, there is a fair implication that it must be sufficiently contemporaneous in that number of States to reflect the will of the people in all sections at relatively the same period, which of course ratification scattered through a long series of years would not do.

—Taken from majority opinion.

The majority also addressed Dillon's second claim. The court stated that the amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919, and went into effect one year later. Even though the Secretary of State did not proclaim the ratification until January 29, 1919, only the date of the actual ratification mattered. The alleged crime and arrest took place on January 17, 1920, which meant that the amendment was in force at the time. The lower court's ruling was upheld.[1]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • ^ 256 U.S. 368 Full text of the opinion courtesy of Findlaw.com.


  1. ^ "Opinion of Dillon v. Gloss". Retrieved 2007-12-10.