Pocket Veto Case

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Pocket Veto Case
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 11, 1929
Decided May 27, 1929
Full case name Okanogan, Methow, San Poelis, Nespelem, Colville, and Lake Indian Tribes v. US
Citations 279 U.S. 655 (more)
Prior history United States Court of Claims found petitioner's suit to be without legal foundation.
The pocket veto utilized by President Coolidge was constitutional and valid; the pocket veto was upheld.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Sanford, joined by Taft, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone
Laws applied
Article One of the United States Constitution

The Pocket Veto Case (also known as Bands of the State of Washington v. United States and Okanogan, Methow, San Poelis, Nespelem, Colville, and Lake Indian Tribes v. United States) 279 U.S. 655 (1929) was a 1929 United States Supreme Court decision which interpreted the Constitutional provisions regarding the pocket veto.


According to Article One of the United States Constitution, a bill that the President has not signed and not vetoed becomes law ten days after being sent to the President (not including Sundays). There is one exception to this: "unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law."[1] The action of the President allowing a bill to expire without signing it after the adjournment of Congress is known as a pocket veto. The pocket veto had been used by United States presidents starting with James Madison.

In 1926, the United States Congress passed Senate Bill 3185, allowing American Indians in Washington State to sue for damages from the loss of their tribal lands. On June 24, 1926, the bill was sent to President Calvin Coolidge for him to either sign or veto. Congress adjourned for the summer on July 3. July 6, the tenth day after the bill's passage, passed without a presidential signature or veto.

Several Indian tribes — the Okanogan, Methow, Sanpoil, Nespelem, Colville, and the Lake Indian Tribes — filed suit in the United States Court of Claims, which ruled that their case had no legal merit. The Indian tribes appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. Arguing on behalf of the United States, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell argued that the pocket veto was a long established practice that had been used to decide many important cases. The case was argued on March 11, 1929, and decided on May 27, 1929.

The case hinged on the definition of "adjournment", as given in Article One. In a 9-0 decision, the court affirmed the lower court's ruling. The decision, written by Justice Edward Terry Sanford, noted that adjournment should be interpreted broadly to mean any cessation of congressional legislative activity.

The court revisited the issue of pocket vetos in Wright v. United States, 302 U.S. 583 (1938).

See also



  1. U.S. Constitution, article II, section 4, clause 2.