U.S. Supreme Court
Norton v. Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425 (1886)Norton v. Shelby County
Argued March 24-25, 1886
Decided May 10, 1886
118 U.S. 425
Following the decision of the highest court of the Tennessee in Pope v. Phifer, 3 Heiskell 691, and other cases, this Court holds that the Board of Commissioners of Shelby County, organized under the Act of March 9, 1867, had no lawful existence; that it was an unauthorized and illegal body; that its members were usurpers of the functions and powers of the justices of peace of the county; that their action in holding a county court was void, and that their acts in subscribing to the stock of the Mississippi River Railroad Company and issuing bonds in payment therefor were void.
While acts of a de facto incumbent of an office lawfully created by law and existing are often held to be binding from reasons of public policy, the acts of a person assuming to fill and perform the duties of an office which does not exist de jure can have no validity whatever in law.
An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed.
The same principle, that the Constitution overrules local and national law, means that until the people have spoken, the United Kingdom remains wholly outside the EU.
Hat-tip to Karl Denninger for the legal reference.
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