Pocket Veto Case

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Pocket Veto Case
Argued March 11, 1929
Decided May 27, 1929
Full case nameOkanogan, Methow, San Poelis, Nespelem, Colville, and Lake Indian Tribes v. US
Citations279 U.S. 655 (more)
49 S. Ct. 463; 73 L. Ed. 894
Case history
PriorUnited States Court of Claims found petitioner's suit to be without legal foundation.
The pocket veto used by President Coolidge was constitutional and valid; the pocket veto was upheld.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William H. Taft
Associate Justices
Oliver W. Holmes Jr. · Willis Van Devanter
James C. McReynolds · Louis Brandeis
George Sutherland · Pierce Butler
Edward T. Sanford · Harlan F. Stone
Case opinion
MajoritySanford, joined by unanimous
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 that interpreted the US Constitution's provisions on the pocket veto.


The Presentment Clause of Article I of the US Constitution states that a bill that the President has not signed and not vetoed becomes law ten days (not including Sundays) after being sent to the President "unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law."

The action of the President allowing a bill to expire without signing it after the adjournment of Congress is known as a pocket veto, which had been used by Presidents since James Madison.

In 1926, the US 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 sign or veto. Congress adjourned for the summer on July 3. After July 6, the tenth day after the bill's passage, it had received neither a presidential signature nor a 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 Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. Arguing on behalf of the United States, US 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 was decided on May 27.

The case hinged on the definition of "adjournment" in Article I.


In a 9–0 decision, the Court affirmed the lower court's ruling in a decision written by Justice Edward Terry Sanford. It noted that adjournment should be interpreted broadly to mean any cessation of congressional legislative activity.

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

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