In some cases, a court will refuse to adjudicate a case despite the fact that it presents all the qualifications that we have considered to make it a justiciable controversy; it is in its jurisdiction, presented by parties with standing, and it is a case in which adverseness and ripeness exist. Such are cases that present a “political question.” Although the Court has referred to the political question doctrine as “one of the rules basic to the federal system and this Court’s appropriate place within that structure,”653 it has also been remarked that “[i]t is, measured by any of the normal responsibilities of a phrase of definition, one of the least satisfactory terms known to the law. The origin, scope, and purpose of the concept have eluded all attempts at precise statements.”654
It has been suggested that it may be more useful to itemize the categories of questions that have been labeled political rather than to attempt to isolate the factors that a court will consider to identify such cases.655 The Court has to some extent agreed, noting that the criteria applied by the Court in political questions cases can vary depending on the issue involved.656 Regardless of which approach is taken, however, the Court’s narrowing of the rationale for political questions in Baker v. Carr,657 discussed below, appears to have changed the nature of the inquiry radically.
Origins and Development.
In the first decade after ratifica- tion of the Constitution, the Court in Ware v. Hylton658 refused to pass on the question whether a treaty had been broken, and in Martin v. Mott,659 the Court held that the President acting under congressional authorization had exclusive and unreviewable power to determine when the militia should be called out. But the roots of the doctrine are most clearly seen in Marbury v. Madison,660 where Chief Justice Marshall stated: “The province of the court is, solely, to decide on the rights of individuals, not to inquire how the executive, or executive officers, perform duties in which they have a discretion. Questions in their nature political, or which are, by the constitution and laws, submitted to the executive can never be made in this court.”661
In Luther v. Borden,662 however, the Court made clear that the doctrine went beyond considerations of interference with executive functions. This case, arising from the Dorr Rebellion (a period of political unrest in Rhode Island), considered the claims of two competing factions vying to be declared the lawful government of Rhode Island.663 Chief Justice Taney, for the Court, began by saying that the answer was primarily a matter of state law that had been decided in favor of one faction by the state courts.664 Insofar as the Federal Constitution had anything to say on the subject, the Chief Justice continued, that was embodied in the clause empowering the United States to guarantee to every state a republican form of government,665 and this clause committed the determination of that issue to Congress.
“Under this article of the Constitution it rests with Congress to decide what government is the established one in a State. For as the United States guarantee to each State a republican government, Congress must necessarily decide what government is established in the State before it can determine whether it is republican or not. And when the senators and representatives of a State are admitted into the councils of the Union, the authority of the government under which they are appointed, as well as its republican character, is recognized by the proper constitutional authority. And its decision is binding on every other department of the government, and could not be questioned in a judicial tribunal.”666 Here, the contest had not proceeded to a point where Congress had made a decision, “[y]et the right to decide is placed there, and not in the courts.”667
Moreover, in effectuating the provision in the same clause that the United States should protect states against domestic violence, Congress had vested discretion in the President to use troops to protect a state government upon the application of the legislature or the governor. Before he could act upon the application of a legislature or a governor, the President “must determine what body of men constitute the legislature, and who is the governor . . . .” No court could review the President’s exercise of discretion in this respect; no court could recognize as legitimate a group vying against the group recognized by the President as the lawful government.668 Although the President had not actually called out the militia in Rhode Island, he had pledged support to one of the competing governments, and this pledge of military assistance if it were needed had in fact led to the capitulation of the other faction, thus making an effectual and authoritative determination not reviewable by the Court.669
The Doctrine Before Baker v. Carr.
Over the years, the po- litical question doctrine has been applied to preclude adjudication of a variety of other issues. In particular, prior to Baker v. Carr,670 cases challenging the distribution of political power through apportionment and districting,671 weighted voting,672 and restrictions on political action673 were held to present nonjusticiable political questions. Certain factors appear more or less consistently through most of the cases decided before Baker, and it is perhaps best to indicate the cases and issues deemed political before attempting to isolate these factors.
1. Republican Form of Government. By far the most consistent application of the doctrine has been in cases in which litigants asserted claims under the republican form of government clause.674 The attacks were generally either on the government of the state itself675 or involved a challenge regarding the manner in which it had acted.676 There have, however, been cases involving this clause in which the Court has reached the merits.677
2. Recognition of Foreign States. Although there is language in the cases that would, if applied, serve to make all cases touching on foreign affairs and foreign policy political questions,678 whether the courts can adjudicate a dispute in this area has often depended on the context in which it arises. Thus, the determination by the President whether to recognize the government of a foreign state679 or who is the de jure or de facto ruler of a foreign state680 is conclusive on the courts. In the absence of a definitive executive action, however, the courts will review the record to determine whether the United States has accorded a sufficient degree of recognition to allow the courts to take judicial notice of the existence of the state.681 Moreover, the courts have often determined for themselves what effect, if any, should be accorded the acts of foreign powers, recognized or unrecognized.682
3. Treaties. Similarly, the Court, when dealing with treaties and the treaty power, has treated as political questions whether the foreign party had constitutional authority to assume a particular obligation683 and whether a treaty has lapsed because of the foreign state’s loss of independence684 or because of changes in the territorial sovereignty of the foreign state.685 On the other hand, the Court will not only interpret the domestic effects of treaties,686 but it will at times interpret the effects bearing on international matters.687 The Court has generally deferred to the President and Congress with regard to the existence of a state of war and the dates of the beginning and ending and of states of belligerency between foreign powers, but the deference has sometimes been forced.688
4. Enactment or Ratification of Laws. Ordinarily, the Court will not look behind the fact of certification as to whether the standards requisite for the enactment of legislation689 or ratification of a constitutional amendment690 have in fact been met, although it will interpret the Constitution to determine what the basic standards are.691 Further, the Court will decide certain questions if the political branches are in disagreement.692
From this limited review of the principal areas in which the political question doctrine seemed most established, it is possible to extract some factors that seemingly convinced the courts that the issues presented went beyond the judicial responsibility. These factors, stated baldly, would appear to be the lack of requisite information and the difficulty of obtaining it,693 the necessity for uniformity of decision and deference to the wider responsibilities of the political departments,694 and the lack of adequate standards to resolve a dispute.695 But present in all the political cases was (and is) the most important factor: a “prudential” attitude about the exercise of judicial review, which emphasizes that courts should be wary of deciding on the merits any issue in which claims of principle as to the issue and of expediency as to the power and prestige of courts are in sharp conflict. The political question doctrine was (and is) thus a way of avoiding a principled decision damaging to the Court or an expedient decision damaging to the principle.696
Baker v. Carr.
In Baker v. Carr,697 the Court undertook a major reformulation and rationalization of the political question doctrine, which has considerably narrowed its application. Following Baker, the whole of the apportionment-districting-election restriction controversy previously immune to federal-court adjudication was considered and decided on the merits,698 and the Court’s subsequent rejection of the doctrine in other cases disclosed narrowing in other areas as well.699
According to Justice Brennan, who delivered the opinion of the Court, “it is the relationship between the judiciary and the coordinate branches of the Federal Government, and not the federal judiciary’s relationship to the States, which gives rise to the ‘political question.’ ”700 Thus, the “nonjusticiability of a political question is primarily a function of the separation of powers.”701 “Deciding whether a matter has in any measure been committed by the Constitution to another branch of government, or whether the action of that branch exceeds whatever authority has been committed, is itself a delicate exercise in constitutional interpretation, and is a responsibility of this Court as ultimate interpreter of the Constitution.”702 Following a discussion of several areas in which the doctrine had been used, Justice Brennan continued: “It is apparent that several formulations which vary slightly according to the settings in which the questions arise may describe a political question, although each has one or more elements which identify it as essentially a function of the separation of powers.”
The Justice went on to list a variety of factors to be considered, noting that “[p]rominent on the surface of any case held to involve a political question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or the impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion; or the impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government; or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question.”703
Powell v. McCormack.
Because Baker had apparently restricted the political question doctrine to intrafederal issues, there was no discussion of the doctrine when the Court held that it had power to review and overturn a state legislature’s refusal to seat a member-elect because of his expressed views.704 But in Powell v. McCormack,705 the Court was confronted with a challenge to the exclusion of a member-elect by the United States House of Representatives. Its determination that the political question doctrine did not bar its review of the challenge indicates the narrowness of application of the doctrine in its present state. Taking Justice Brennan’s formulation in Baker of the factors that go to make up a political question,706 Chief Justice Warren determined that the only critical one in this case was whether there was a “textually demonstrable constitutional commitment” to the House to determine in its sole discretion the qualifications of members.707
In order to determine whether there was a textual commitment, the Court reviewed the Constitution, the Convention proceedings, and English and United States legislative practice to ascertain what power had been conferred on the House to judge the qualifications of its members; finding that the Constitution vested the House with power only to look at the qualifications of age, residency, and citizenship, the Court thus decided that in passing on Powell’s conduct and character the House had exceeded the powers committed to it and thus judicial review was not barred by this factor of the political question doctrine.708 Although this approach accords with the “classicist” theory of judicial review,709 it circumscribes the political question doctrine severely, inasmuch as all constitutional questions turn on whether a governmental body has exceeded its specified powers, a determination the Court traditionally makes, whereas traditionally the doctrine precluded the Court from inquiring whether the governmental body had exceeded its powers. In short, the political question consideration may now be one on the merits rather than a decision not to decide.
Chief Justice Warren disposed of the other factors present in political question cases in slightly more than a page. Because resolution of the question turned on an interpretation of the Constitution, a judicial function which must sometimes be exercised “at variance with the construction given the document by another branch,” there was no lack of respect shown another branch. Nor, because the Court is the “ultimate interpreter of the Constitution,” will there be “multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question,” nor, since the Court is merely interpreting the Constitution, is there an “initial policy determination” not suitable for courts. Finally, “judicially . . . manageable standards” are present in the text of the Constitution.710 The effect of Powell was to discard all the Baker factors inhering in a political question, with the exception of the textual commitment factor, and that was interpreted in such a manner as seldom if ever to preclude a judicial decision on the merits.
The Doctrine Reappears.
Despite the apparent narrowing of the doctrine in Baker and Powell, the Court has not abandoned it. Reversing a lower federal court ruling subjecting the training and discipline of National Guard troops to court review and supervision, the Court held that under Article I, § 8, cl. 16, the organizing, arming, and disciplining of such troops are committed to Congress and by congressional enactment to the Executive Branch. “It would be difficult to think of a clearer example of the type of governmental action that was intended by the Constitution to be left to the political branches, directly responsible—as the Judicial Branch is not—to the elective process. Moreover, it is difficult to conceive of an area of governmental activity in which the courts have less competence. The complex, subtle, and professional decisions as to the composition, training, equipping, and control of a military force are essentially professional military judgments, subject always to civilian control of the Legislative and Executive Branches.”711
The suggestion of the infirmity of the political question doctrine was rejected, since “because this doctrine has been held inapplicable to certain carefully delineated situations, it is no reason for federal courts to assume its demise.”712 In staying a grant of remedial relief in another case, the Court strongly suggested that the actions of political parties in national nominating conventions may also present issues not meet for judicial resolution.713 A challenge to the Senate’s interpretation of and exercise of its impeachment powers was held to be nonjusticiable; there was a textually demonstrable commitment of the issue to the Senate, and there was a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving the issue.714
Despite the occasional resort to the doctrine, the Court continues to reject its application in language that confines its scope. Thus, when parties challenged the actions of the Secretary of Commerce in declining to certify, as required by statute, that Japanese whaling practices undermined the effectiveness of international conventions, the Court rejected the Government’s argument that the political question doctrine precluded decision on the merits. The Court’s prime responsibility, it said, is to interpret statutes, treaties, and executive agreements; the interplay of the statutes and the agreements in this case implicated the foreign relations of the Nation. “But under the Constitution, one of the Judiciary’s characteristic roles is to interpret statutes, and we cannot shirk this responsibility merely because our decision may have significant political overtones.”715
After requesting argument on the issue, the Court held that a challenge to a statute on the ground that it did not originate in the House of Representatives as required by the Origination Clause was justiciable.716 Turning back reliance on the various factors set out in Baker, in much the same tone as in Powell v. McCormack, the Court continued to evidence the view that only questions textually committed to another branch are political questions. Invalidation of a statute because it did not originate in the right House would not demonstrate a “lack of respect” for the House that passed the bill. “[D]isrespect,” in the sense of rejecting Congress’s reading of the Constitution, “cannot be sufficient to create a political question. If it were every judicial resolution of a constitutional challenge to a congressional enactment would be impermissible.”717 That the House of Representatives has the power and incentives to protect its prerogatives by not passing a bill violating the Origination Clause did not make this case nonjusticiable. “[T]he fact that one institution of Government has mechanisms available to guard against incursions into its power by other governmental institutions does not require that the Judiciary remove itself from the controversy by labeling the issue a political question.”718
The Court also rejected the contention that, because the case did not involve a matter of individual rights, it ought not be adjudicated. Political questions are not restricted to one kind of claim, but the Court frequently has decided separation-of-power cases brought by people in their individual capacities. Moreover, the allocation of powers within a branch, just as the separation of powers among branches, is designed to safeguard liberty.719 Finally, the Court was sanguine that it could develop “judicially manageable standards” for disposing of Origination Clause cases, and, thus, it did not view the issue as political in that context.720
In Zivotosky v. Clinton,721 the Court declined to find a political question where a citizen born in Jerusalem sought, pursuant to federal statute, to have “Israel” listed on his passport as his place of birth, the Executive Branch having declined to recognize Israeli sovereignly over that city. Justice Roberts, for the Court, failed to even acknowledge the numerous factors set forth in Justice Brennan’s Baker opinion save two—whether there is a textually demonstrable commitment of the issue to another department or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it.722 The Court noted that while the decision as whether or not to recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel might be exclusively the province of the Executive Branch, there is “no exclusive commitment to the Executive of the power to determine the constitutionality of a statute,”723 such as whether Congress is encroaching on Presidential powers. Similarly, this latter question, while perhaps a difficult one, is amenable to the type of separation of powers “standards” used by the Court in other separation of powers cases.
In short, the political question doctrine may not be moribund, but it does seem applicable to a very narrow class of cases. Significantly, the Court made no mention of the doctrine when it resolved issues arising from Florida’s recount of votes in the closely contested 2000 presidential election,724 despite the fact that the Constitution vests in Congress the authority to count electoral votes, and further provides for selection of the President by the House of Representatives if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes.725
- Rescue Army v. Municipal Court, 331 U.S. 549, 570 (1947); cf. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 278 (1962) (Justice Frankfurter dissenting). The most successful effort at conceptualization of the doctrine is Scharpf, Judicial Review and the Political Question: A Functional Analysis, 75 YALE L.J. 517 (1966). See Hart & Wechsler (6th ed.), supra at 222–248.
- Frank, Political Questions, in SUPREME COURT AND SUPREME LAW (E. Cahn, ed., 1954), at 36.
- The concept of political question is “more amenable to description by infinite itemization than by generalization” Id.
- Baker v. Carr , 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962).
- 369 U.S. at 208–232.
- 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 199 (1796).
- 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 19 (1827).
- 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 137 (1803).
- 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) at 170. In Decatur v. Paulding, 39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 497, 516 (1840), the Court, refusing an effort by mandamus to compel the Secretary of the Navy to pay a pension, said: “The interference of the courts with the performance of the ordinary duties of the executive departments of the government, would be productive of nothing but mischief; and we are quite satisfied, that such a power was never intended to be given to them.” It therefore follows that mandamus will lie against an executive official only to compel the performance of a ministerial duty, which admits of no discretion, and may not be invoked to control executive or political duties which admit of discretion. See Georgia v. Stanton, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 50 (1867); Mississippi v. Johnson, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 475 (1867); Kendall v. United States ex rel. Stokes, 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 524 (1838).
- 48 U.S. (7 How.) 1 (1849).
- Cf. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 218–22 (1962); id. at 292–97 (Justice Frankfurter dissenting).
- Luther, 48 U.S. (7 How.) at 40.
- 48 U.S. at 42 (citing Article IV, § 4).
- 48 U.S. at 42.
- 48 U.S. at 43.
- 48 U.S. at 44.
- 369 U.S. 186 (1962).
- Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549 (1946); Colegrove v. Barrett, 330 U.S. 804 (1947).
- South v. Peters, 339 U.S. 276 (1950) (county unit system for election of state-wide officers with vote heavily weighted in favor of rural, lightly populated counties).
- MacDougall v. Green, 335 U.S. 281 (1948) (signatures on nominating petitions must be spread among counties of unequal population).
- Article IV, § 4.
- As it was on the established government of Rhode Island in Luther v. Borden, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 1 (1849). See also Texas v. White, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 700 (1869); Taylor v. Beckham, 178 U.S. 548 (1900).
- Pacific States Tel. Co. v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118 (1912) (challenging tax initiative); Kiernan v. City of Portland, 223 U.S. 151 (1912) (attacks on initiative and referendum); Marshall v. Dye, 231 U.S. 250 (1913) (state constitutional amendment procedure); O’Neill v. Leamer, 239 U.S. 244 (1915) (delegation to court to form drainage districts); Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant, 241 U.S. 565 (1916) (submission of legislation to referendum); Mountain Timber Co. v. Washington, 243 U.S. 219 (1917) (workmen’s compensation); Ohio ex rel. Bryant v. Akron Metropolitan Park District, 281 U.S. 74 (1930) (concurrence of all but one justice of state high court required to invalidate statute); Highland Farms Dairy v. Agnew, 300 U.S. 608 (1937) (delegation of legislative powers).
- All the cases, however, predate the application of the doctrine in Pacific States Tel. Co. v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118 (1912). See Attorney General of the State of Michigan ex rel. Kies v. Lowrey, 199 U.S. 233, 239 (1905) (legislative creation and alteration of school districts “compatible” with a republican form of government); Forsyth v. City of Hammond, 166 U.S. 506, 519 (1897) (delegation of power to court to determine municipal boundaries does not infringe republican form of government); Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162, 175–176 (1875) (denial of suffrage to women no violation of republican form of government).
- Oetjen v. Central Leather Co., 246 U.S. 297, 302 (1918); Chicago & S. Air Lines v. Waterman Steamship Corp., 333 U.S. 103, 111 (1948).
- United States v. Palmer, 16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 610 (1818); Kennett v. Chambers, 55 U.S. (14 How.) 38 (1852).
- Jones v. United States, 137 U.S. 202 (1890); Oetjen v. Central Leather Co., 246 U.S. 297 (1918). See Ex parte Hitz, 111 U.S. 766 (1884).
- United States v. The Three Friends, 166 U.S. 1 (1897); In re Baiz, 135 U.S. 403 (1890). Cf. Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398 (1964).
- United States v. Reynes, 50 U.S. (9 How.) 127 (1850); Garcia v. Lee, 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 511 (1838); Keene v. McDonough, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 308 (1834). See also Williams v. Suffolk Ins. Co., 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 415 (1839); Underhill v. Hernandez, 168 U.S. 250 (1897). But see United States v. Belmont, 301 U.S. 324 (1937). On the “act of state” doctrine, compare Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398 (1964), with First National City Bank v. Banco Nacional de Cuba, 406 U.S. 759 (1972). See also First National City Bank v. Banco Para el Comercio de Cuba, 462 U.S. 611 (1983); W.S. Kirkpatrick & Co. v. Environmental Tectronics Corp., U.S. 400 (1990).
- Doe v. Braden, 57 U.S. (16 How.) 635 (1853).
- Terlinden v. Ames, 184 U.S. 270 (1902); Clark v. Allen, 331 U.S. 503 (1947).
- Kennett v. Chambers, 55 U.S. (14 How.) 38 (1852). On the effect of a violation by a foreign state on the continuing effectiveness of the treaty, see Ware v. Hylton, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 199 (1796); Charlton v. Kelly, 229 U.S. 447 (1913).
- Ware v. Hylton, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 199 (1796). Cf. Chinese Exclusion Case (Chae Chan Ping v. United States), 130 U.S. 581 (1889) (conflict of treaty with federal law). On the modern formulation, see Japan Whaling Ass’n v. American Cetacean Society, 478 U.S. 221, 229–230 (1986).
- Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325 (1939); United States v. Rauscher, 119 U.S. 407 (1886).
- Commercial Trust Co v. Miller, 262 U.S. 51 (1923); Woods v. Cloyd W. Miller Co., 333 U.S. 138 (1948); Chastleton Corp. v. Sinclair, 264 U.S. 543 (1924); Ludecke v. Watkins, 335 U.S. 160 (1948); Lee v. Madigan, 358 U.S. 228 (1959); The Divina Pastora, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 52 (1819). The cases involving the status of Indian tribes as foreign states usually but not always have presented political questions. The Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831); United States v. Sandoval, 231 U.S. 28 (1913); Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832).
- Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649 (1892); Harwood v. Wentworth, 162 U.S. 547 (1896); cf. Gardner v. The Collector, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 499 (1868). See, for the modern formulation, United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495 U.S. 385 (1990).
- Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939) (Congress’s discretion to determine what passage of time will cause an amendment to lapse, and effect of previous rejection by legislature).
- Missouri Pac. Ry. v. Kansas, 248 U.S. 276 (1919); Rainey v. United States, 232 U.S. 310 (1914); Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107 (1911); Twin City National Bank v. Nebeker, 167 U.S. 196 (1897); Lyons v. Woods, 153 U.S. 649 (1894); United States v. Ballin, 144 U.S. 1 (1892) (statutes); United States v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716 (1931); Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130 (1922); Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368 (1921); Hawke v. Smith (No. 1), 253 U.S. 221 (1920); National Prohibition Cases, 253 U.S. 350 (1920); Hollingsworth v. Virginia, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 378 (1798) (constitutional amendments).
- Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929); Wright v. United States, 302 U.S. 583 (1938).
- See, e.g., Chicago & S. Air Lines v. Waterman Steamship Corp., 333 U.S. 103, 111 (1948); Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433, 453, (1939).
- See, e.g., Williams v. Suffolk Ins. Co., 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 415, 420 (1839). Similar considerations underlay the opinion in Luther v. Borden, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 1 (1849), in which Chief Justice Taney wondered how a court decision in favor of one faction would be received with Congress seating the representatives of the other faction and the President supporting that faction with military force.
- Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217, 226 (1962) (opinion of the Court); id. at 268, 287, 295 (Justice Frankfurter dissenting)
- For a statement of the “prudential” view, see generally A. BICKEL, THE LEAST DANGEROUS BRANCH: THE SUPREME COURT AT THE BAR OF POLITICS (1962), but see esp. 23–28, 69–71, 183–198. See also Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 267 (1962) (Justice Frankfurter dissenting.) The opposing view, which has been called the “classicist” view, is that courts are duty bound to decide all cases properly before them. Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 404 (1821). See also H. WECHSLER, PRINCIPLES, POLITICS, AND FUNDAMENTAL LAW: SELECTED ESSAYS 11–15 (1961).
- 369 U.S. 186 (1962).
- Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964); Hadley v. Junior College District, 397 U.S. 50 (1970) (apportionment and districting, congressional, legislative, and local); Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368 (1963) (county unit system weighing statewide elections); Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 U.S. 814 (1969) (geographic dispersion of persons signing nominating petitions).
- See, e.g., Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969). Nonetheless, the doctrine continues to be sighted.
- Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 210 (1962). This formulation fails to explain cases like Moyer v. Peabody, 212 U.S. 78 (1909), in which the conclusion of the governor of a state that insurrection existed or was imminent justifying suspension of constitutional rights was deemed binding on the Court. Cf. Sterling v. Constantin, 287 U.S. 378 (1932). The political question doctrine was applied in cases challenging the regularity of enactments of territorial legislatures. Harwood v. Wentworth, 162 U.S. 547 (1896); Lyons v. Woods, 153 U.S. 649 (1894); Clough v. Curtis, 134 U.S. 361 (1890). See also In re Sawyer, 124 U.S. 200 (1888); Walton v. House of Representatives, 265 U.S. 487 (1924).
- 369 U.S. at 210.
- 369 U.S. at 211.
- 369 U.S. at 217. It remains unclear after Baker whether the political question doctrine is applicable solely to intrafederal issues or only primarily, so that the existence of one or more of these factors in a case involving, say, a state, might still give rise to nonjusticiability. At one point, id. at 210, Justice Brennan says that nonjusticiability of a political question is “primarily” a function of separation of powers but in the immediately preceding paragraph he states that “it is” the intrafederal aspect “and not the federal judiciary’s relationship to the States” that raises political questions. But subsequently, id. at 226, he balances the present case, which involves a state and not a branch of the Federal Government, against each of the factors listed in the instant quotation and notes that none apply. His discussion of why Guarantee Clause cases are political presents much the same difficulty, id. at 222–26, because he joins the conclusion that the clause commits resolution of such issues to Congress with the assertion that the clause contains no “criteria by which a court could determine which form of government was republican,” id. at 222, a factor not present when the Equal Protection Clause is relied on. Id. at 226.
- Bond v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 116 (1966).
- 395 U.S. 486 (1969).
- Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962).
- 395 U.S. at 319.
- 395 U.S. at 519–47. The Court noted, however, that even if this conclusion had not been reached from unambiguous evidence, the result would have followed from other considerations. Id. at 547–48.
- See H. Wechsler, supra at 11–12. Professor Wechsler believed that congressional decisions about seating members were immune to review. Id. Chief Justice Warren noted that “federal courts might still be barred by the political question doctrine from reviewing the House’s factual determination that a member did not meet one of the standing qualifications. This is an issue not presented in this case and we express no view as to its resolution.” Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 521 n.42 (1969). See also id. at 507 n.27 (reservation on limitations that might exist on Congress’s power to expel or otherwise punish a sitting member).
- 395 U.S. at 548–549. With the formulation of Chief Justice Warren, compare that of then-Judge Burger in the lower court. 395 F.2d 577, 591–96 (D.C. Cir. 1968).
- Gilligan v. Morgan, 413 U.S. 1, 10 (1973). Similar prudential concerns seem to underlay, though they did not provide the formal basis for, the decisions in O’Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488 (1974), and Mayor of Philadelphia v. Educational Equality League, 415 U.S. 605 (1974).
- 413 U.S. at 11. Other considerations of justiciability, however, id. at 10, preclude using the case as square precedent on political questions. Notice that in Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 249 (1974), the Court denied that the Gilligan v. Morgan holding barred adjudication of damage actions brought against state officials by the estates of students killed in the course of the conduct that gave rise to both cases.
- O’Brien v. Brown, 409 U.S. 1 (1972) (granting stay). The issue was mooted by the passage of time and was not thereafter considered on the merits by the Court. Id. at 816 (remanding to dismiss as moot). It was also not before the Court in Cousins v. Wigoda, 419 U.S. 477 (1975), but it was alluded to there. See id. at 483 n.4, and id. at 491 (Justice Rehnquist concurring). See also Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996, 1002 (1979) (Justices Rehnquist, Stewart, and Stevens, and Chief Justice Burger using political question analysis to dismiss a challenge to presidential action). But see id. at 997, 998 (Justice Powell rejecting analysis for this type of case).
- Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. 224 (1993). The Court pronounced its decision as perfectly consonant with Powell v. McCormack. Id. at 236–38.
- Japan Whaling Ass’n v. American Cetacean Society, 478 U.S. 221, 230 (1986). See also Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109 (1986) (challenge to political gerrymandering is justiciable). But see Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004) (no workable standard has been found for measuring burdens on representational rights imposed by political gerrymandering).
- United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495 U.S. 385 (1990).
- 495 U.S. at 390 (emphasis in original).
- 495 U.S. at 393.
- 495 U.S. at 393–95.
- 495 U.S. at 395–96.
- 566 U.S. ___, No. 10–699, slip op. (2010).
- This left it to Justice Sotomayor and Justice Breyer to raise and address the other considerations, respectively, in concurrence and dissent.
- 566 U.S. ___, No. 10–699, slip op. at 8.
- See Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Bd., 531 U.S. 70 (2000); and Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000).
- 12th Amendment.