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Federal Courts
University of Pennsylvania School of Law
Struve, Catherine T.

Struve – Federal Courts – Spring 2010
A.      General Considerations: Article III of the United States Constitution creates the federal judiciary and defines its powers. The language of the Article does five important things…
(1)    Creates a Federal Judicial System: First, the initial words of Article III – “the judicial power of the United States shall be vested” – create a federal judicial system. Federal courts were desired to effectively implement the powers of the national government; there as fear that sate courts might not fully enforce and implement federal policies, especially where there was conflict between state and federal law. At a minimum, a federal judiciary could help provide the uniform interpretation of the Constitution and federal laws; it could also protect individual liberties.
(2)    Creates Supreme Court and Permits Establishment of Lower Courts: Second, Article III vests the judicial power of the United States “in one supreme Court and in such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Congress established lower federal courts in its first judiciary act, and they have existed ever since.
(3)    Insulates Federal Judges: Third, Article III assures the independence of the federal judiciary by according all federal judges life tenure “during good behavior,” and salaries that cannot be decreased during their time in office. This difference from state courts makes federal judges uniquely suited for the protection of constitutional rights.
(4)    Cases and Controversies Defined: Forth, Article III defines the federal judicial power in terms of nine categories of cases and controversies. These nine categories fall into two major types of provisions. One set of clauses authorizes the federal courts to vindicate and enforce the powers of the federal government. The other authorizes the federal courts to serve an interstate umpiring function, resolving disputes between states and their citizens.
(5)    Allocates Authority Between Supreme Court and Lower Courts: Fifth, Article III allocates judicial power between the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. Article III states that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party. In all other cases, the Supreme Court is granted appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, subject to such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make.
B.      Judicial Review: Article III courts have the power of judicial review, which enables them to determine the constitutionality of acts of the other two branches of the federal government and of the states. However, this power is limited by the “case and controversy” requirement and by justiciability doctrines.
Marbury v. Madison (1803) (created judicial review for the federal courts): Marbury filed suit in the United States Supreme Court seeking a writ of mandamus to compel Madison, as secretary of state, to deliver his judicial commission. Marbury claimed that the Judiciary Act of 1789 authorized the Supreme Court to grant mandamus in a proceeding filed originally in the Supreme Court. However, Madison claimed that the Constitution specifically limited the Court’s original jurisdiction to specific areas. Held: The Supreme Court has the power, under the Supremacy Clause and Article III, § 2 of the Constitution, to review acts of Congress which are repugnant to the Constitution and find them constitutional. The Court ruled against Marbury and held that it could not hear the case as a matter of original jurisdiction. The Court held that although the Judiciary Act of 1789 authorized such jurisdiction, the statute was unconstitutional and hence void.
1.       Federal Courts are Courts of Limited Jurisdiction: Federal courts may not hear matters unless there is constitutional authority, and Congress may not expand the jurisdiction granted in Article III of the Constitution.
i)        Limited Original Jurisdiction: The Court in Marbury ruled that Article III creates the ceiling on the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. Congress cannot authorize original jurisdiction greater than that provided for within Article III.
2.       Role of Judiciary in Separations of Powers Doctrine: “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” The Constitution imposes limits on government powers and those limits are meaningless unless subject to judicial enforcement. 
C.      Private v. Public Rights Models
1.       Dispute Resolution or Private Rights Model: Some claim that the power of judicial review exists only as a necessary incident of the power to decide cases. The definition of such “cases” should be restricted to the kinds of disputes historically viewed as appropriate for judicial resolution – paradigmatically, those in which a defendant’s violation of a legal duty to the plaintiff has caused a distinct and palpable injury to an economic of other legally protected interest. Courts should avoid any role as a general overseer of government conduct, and should especially avoid the award of remedies that invade traditional and legislative prerogatives.
E.g. Frothingham
2.       Public Rights Model: A more diffused conception of the function of courts in public law matters, which depicts constitutional interpretation by the courts as other than an incident of the power to resolve particular disputes between identified litigants, is called the public rights model. Advocates for this model argue that the judiciary should not be viewed as a mere settler of disputes, but rather as an institution with a distinctive capacity to declare and explicate public values – norms that transcend individual controversies. 
E.g. Flast
3.       Connection to Standing: The private v. public model factors into standing doctrine because it determines how broad or narrow the claim needs to be.
A.      JusticiabilityRulesGenerally: Article III courts are only authorized to hear judicially cognizable disputes. In addition to the “case and controversy” limits set forth in Article III, the federal courts have developed a set of sub-constitutional factors – based on prudence – that dictate whether a dispute should be heard and/or decided.
1.       Reasoning: Justiciability rules are based on separation of powers concerns and define what the court may hear and what the court must defer to other branches of the government. They also conserve judicial resources allowing the federal courts to focus their attention on the matters most deserving of review. Finally, they improve judicial decision-making by providing the federal courts with concrete controversies which will be zealously litigated for judicial resolution.
2.       State courts not required to follow federal standing requirements, even for federal claims. (Fairchild: wanted to sue to keep the 19th amendment from being ratified. Suing the Sec. of State and Attny general, to keep it from being entered and enforced.)
B.      Advisory Opinions: Federal courts will not issue advisory opinions. 
1.       Reasoning:
i)        Separation of powers is maintained by keeping the courts out of the legislative process. The judicial role is limited to deciding actual disputes; it does not include giving advice to Congress or the President
ii)      Judicial resources are conserved because advisory opinions might be requested in many instances in which the law ultimately would not pass the legislature
iii)    Helps ensure that cases will be presented to the Court in terns of specific disputes, not as hypothetical legal questions (adverse parties will be more likely to present all the facts).
2.       TEST: In order for a case to be justiciable and not be an advisory opinion, two criteria must be met…
i)        First, there must be an ACTUAL DISPUTE between adverse litigants
a.       Must be adverse, if Congress just says you can file to get things clarified, the parties aren’t in dispute yet. (Muskrat v. U.S.)
ii)      ANDThere must be a SUBSTANTIAL LIKELIHOOD that a federal court DECISION in favor of a claimant will bring about some CHANGE or have SOME EFFECT.
a.       Case where Court was asked to review Revolutionary War Vet benefits, but the Secretary could ignore the court’s recommendations, that’s an advisory opinion. (Hayburn’s Case)
3.       State Courts May Offer Advisory Opinions about the constitutionality of pending legislation or on constitutional questions referred to them by other branches of government. 
·         These rulings can prevent unconstitutional laws and save legislature wasted effort
4.       Declaratory Judgments Allowed: Congress adopted the Declaratory Judgment Act of 1934, authorizing a federal court to issue a declaratory judgment in a “case or controversy within its jurisdiction.” 
i)        Must still meet requirement for judicial review. (Must be actual dispute btw adverse litigants & substantial likelihood that favorable decision will bring about some change.)
ii)      Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Haworth (1937): upheld the constitutionality of the DJA. “where there is such a concrete case admitting of an immediate and definitive determination of the legal rights of the parties in an adversary proceeding upon the facts alleged, the judicial function may be appropriately exercised although the adjudication of the rights of the litigants may not require the award of process or the payment of damages.”
C.      Finality: A federal court will not decide a case if its decision is liable to be overturned by one of the coordinate branches of the federal government. 
·         Because such action would violate the principle of separation of powers. It would interfere with the independence of the judicial branch by depriving its judgments of finality.
i)        Heyburn’s Case (1792) (no decisions that can be overturned by coordinate branches): Court was asked to determine Rev. War Vet benefits. But, the secretary could refuse to follow the court’s recommendation. The assignment of these tasks was unconstitutional b/c of separation of powers.
a.       Class example: extradition proceedings, judge holds

life (1992) (no standing w/re Take Care Clause/General Public Interest): The Endangered Species Act provides that any person may commence a civil suit to enjoin a violation of the Act. Held: Congress could not create standing in this manner. It’s a general public interest. To permit Congress to convert the undifferentiated public interest in executive officers’ compliance with the law into an individual right is to permit Congress to transfer from the president to the courts the Executive’s constitutional duty, to take care than the laws be faithfully executed.
                                                                                    ii.      Federal Elections Commission v. Atkins (1998) (statutory right to information created standing): Court granted standing and concluded that Congress had created a right to information about political committees and that the plaintiffs were denied the information by virtue of the FEC’s decision. Why is this not a generalized grievance like that in Lujan? Court thought right to information was more like other common, but cognizable injuries like mass torts or voting injuries, so it’s common but still important. 
d.      Massachusetts v. EPA: If state doesn’t regulate pollution, then greenhouse gases go up, ice caps melt, and the home owner’s beach front property will be eroded. 5 justices said this gave standing. By regulating the cars the court says it reduces the risk to the property.
e.      Stigmatic injury doesn’t count. Only counts if plaintiff personally suffered injury.  E.g., where parents claimed discrimination b/c IRS didn’t deny tax exempt status to schools, no injury b/c parents didn’t allege that their children applied/would apply to those schools (Allen v. Wright, 1984).
f.        Right to receive benefits in a non-discriminatory manner counts, even if higher benefits wouldn’t have actually been received (Heckler v. Mathews)
g.       Freight tax’s adverse impact on cost of recycling counts. Court bought argument that more expensive recycling would deplete natural resources around school (SCRAP case).
h.      Taxpayer Standing: Usually not enough, different in municipality (can feel effects).
(2)    CAUSATION: The plaintiff must allege that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct.
a.        Allen v. Wright (1984): No causation when IRS didn’t follow law and deny tax-exempt status to racially-discriminatory leading to black children being stigmatized, denied integrated education. Real injury, but the injury is not fairly traceable to the government conduct. The injury to respondents is highly indirect and results from the independent action of some third party not before the court.
                                                                                       i.      Could maybe get around this by defining the injury as being denied the right to receive economic benefits in a nondiscriminatory way.
                                                                                      ii.      Common criticism is that standing is determined by how you define the injury
(3)    REDRESSABILITY: The plaintiff must allege that a favorable federal court decision is likely to redress the injury.
a.       Ex., if requested relief only cuts 10% of challenged project’s funding, that probably isn’t redressable, if it’s 90%, that’s probably redressable.
b.      In case where student applying to med school sued b/c school has AA policy of setting aside 16 out of 100 spots per year for minorities. Even if there was no AA, he still might not get in so not redressable. But by defining it as the ability to compete for all 100 spots, there was redressability/causation and standing. (Bakke)
2.       Prudential Limits: In addition to the constitutional limitations, the Court has also identified 3 prudential standing principles. Unlike constitutional requirements, Congress can override these by statute (e.g. qui tam)
i)        No third-party standing: A party may assert only his or her own rights and cannot raise the claims of third parties not in court. (subject to a few limited exceptions, p. 90 in Chimerinsky)