Validity of Statutes of District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

The Federal jurisdictional statute provides that final judgments or decrees rendered by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals may be reviewed by the Supreme Court:[i]

  • where the validity of a treaty or statute of the U.S. is drawn in question, or
  • where the validity of a statute of any State is drawn in question on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the U.S., or
  • where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set up or claimed under the Constitution or the treaties or statutes or any commission held or authority exercised under the U.S.

In Key v. Doyle, 434 U.S. 59, 61 (U.S. 1977), the court held that a law applicable only in the District of Columbia is not a statute of the U.S. as stated in the federal jurisdictional statute.

In Milhouse v. Levi, 548 F.2d 357, 360 (D.C. Cir. 1976), the court held that violation of criminal provisions of District of Columbia Code are considered offenses against laws of U.S. notwithstanding local nature of court system.

The District of Columbia is constitutionally distinct from the states.[ii]  The provisions of District of Columbia Code are not considered as state statutes for purpose of appealing to Supreme Court under the federal jurisdictional statute.[iii]

In Palmore v. United States, 411 U.S. 389 (U.S. 1973), the court held that jurisdictional statutes are to be construed with precision and with fidelity to the terms by which Congress has expressed its wishes, and the Supreme Court is particularly prone to accord strict construction of statutes authorizing appeals to its court.

The meaning of the words used in a statute is to be arrived at by a consideration of the words themselves and by considering the context, the purposes of the law, and the circumstances under which the words were employed.[iv]

Pursuant to the federal statute, final judgments or decrees rendered by the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico may be reviewed by the Supreme Court:[v]

  • where the validity of a treaty or statute of the U.S. is drawn in question, or
  • where the validity of a statute of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is drawn in question on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the U.S., or
  • where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set up or claimed under the Constitution or the treaties or statutes or any commission held or authority exercised under the U.S.

In Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253 (U.S. 1937), the court observed that since the acts of the Puerto Rican Legislature and of Congress, and the courts, exercising Federal or local jurisdiction, are creations emanating from the same sovereignty, prosecutions under a Federal statute or under a substantially identical Puerto Rican statute in the appropriate court will bar a prosecution under the other statute in another court.  The court held that the anti-trust act of Puerto Rico is valid and enforceable.

[i] 28 USCS § 1257

[ii] Palmore v. United States, 411 U.S. 389 (U.S. 1973)

[iii] Milhouse v. Levi, 548 F.2d 357, 360 (D.C. Cir. 1976)

[iv] Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253 (U.S. 1937)

[v] 28 USCS § 1258


Inside Validity of Statutes of District of Columbia and Puerto Rico