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Flashcards in Political Question Doctrine Deck (10):

Marbury v. Madison Contribution

Province of court is solely to decide on the rights of individuals, not to enquire how the executive, or executive officers, perform duties in which they have discretion. Questions, in their nature political, can never be made in this court.


Baker v. Carr 1962

Equal Protection Clause - 14th amendment

Rural votes worth more than Urban ones.

A challenge to malapportionment of state legislatures brought under the Equal Protection Clause is not a political question and is thus justiciable.
1. appropriateness of attributing finality to the action and satisfactory criteria for judicial decision making.
2. Deciding if matter was committed to another branch of gov’t or whether that branch exceeds its authority
3. Constitutional interpretation is responsibility of court, doesn’t violate SOP


Colegrove v. Green 1946

Equal Protection Clause

Frankfurter - declined to reach the merits of a challenge to the congressional districting scheme in Illinois. The claim was that the districts were not

challenges to the malapportionment of state legislatures brought under the Guaranty Clause of the Constitution are inappropriate political questions.


Luther v. Borden 1849

whether gov’t is republican under guarantee clause non-justiciable Rhode Island didn’t have a state constitution. Constitution proposed and ratified. Existing gov’t enacted law prohibiting it from going into effect so it wouldn’t lose power. Suit follows re which one is in power and if legislature is properly apportioned.

Holding: Court held that this was a non-justiciable political question b/c lack of criteria for court to decide what constitutes republican form of gov’t


Bush v. Gore (2000)

Procedural standards were a justiciable question. Were the recount procedures the FL courts adopted consistent w/ Constitutional rules about resolving inconclusive cotes? No, because no specific procedural standards to ensure they comported with Constitution.


Zivotofsky v. Clinton (2012) J. Roberts

Congress passed law saying Americans can put Israel on passport. State Department refused to, b/c policy not to take position on political status of Jerusalem. Family sues.

Holding: Courts can rule if statute may be given effect or not. Here, courts don’t have to determine if Jerusalem is in Israel or not, just determine whether he can assert his right under this law.


Goldwater v. Carter (1979) J. Rehnquist

Can president terminate a treaty unilaterally? Or does it require Senate approval?

Holding: This is non-justiciable political question. Constitution doesn’t provide standards for rescission of treaties. This is a dispute between co-equal branches of gov’t, Executive & Legislature, who each have resources available to protect/assert its interests.
Powell concurred but said it wasn’t ripe yet


Powell v. McCormack (1969) J. Warren

House refused to seat one of its representatives even though he was elected by his constituents’ b/c he had made false reports about his expenditures.

Holding: this was justiciable b/c Constitution provides that House can vote to expel member, but here there were just excluding. House can set qualifications, but here he met them, they couldn’t just exclude him. Up to them to change rules.


Coleman v. Miller

The question of what is a reasonable time-period for ratification of amendment proposed by Congress is non-justiciable political question.


Nixon v. U.S. (1993) J. Rehnquist

Nixon, former judge, convicted for lying to grand jury & was impeached by committee in Senate, not whole house. Nixon challenged procedure of impeachment.

Holding: Question non-justiciable on textual & prudential grounds.
Ex of a textual commitment to the Constitution, which says Senate alone has authority to impeach
Prudential argument is that difficult to redress issue here.