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Constitutional Law II
Valparaiso University School of Law
Lind, JoEllen


The Federal Judicial Power

· Justiciability Limits

o Justiciability= capable of resolution through the judicial process; can be heard in federal courts

o Stems from separation of powers, conservation of scarce judicial resources, political capital (if the court rules on all issues they may mess with the democratic process) and better decision making if there is a concrete controversy

o Constitutional- congress by statute cannot override these matters

o Prudential- based on prudent judicial administration and can be overridden by congress since they are not constitutional requirements

o Avoidance Principles- the court will avoid a case when:

§ (1) the proceedings are friendly and non-adversary

§ (2) the question is anticipatory or in the future

§ (3) the court will not make a ruling broader than the specific question at hand

§ (4) if a case can be decided on two grounds (one statutory and one constitutional) the court must only decide the statutory

§ (5) there must be an actual injury

§ (6) if a person has benefited from the issue, then the court will not take the case

§ (7) if the issue/statute can be construed another way so that there is not a constitutional problem, then the court must look at it that way


§ (1) Advisory Opinions- WHAT

· The court cannot give congress advice concerning a piece of legislature

· Separation of powers- judicial must not participate in the legislature

· To avoid advisory opinions:

o There must be an actual dispute between adverse litigants

o There must be a substantial likelihood that ruling by court will actually have some effect or bring about some change

· Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm- congress can change the statute of limitations, but they cannot reopen cases once they are final because then they turn into advisory opinions

· Nashville v. Wallace- declaratory judgment that a tax was an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce was not an advisory opinion and was therefore justiciable

§ (2) Standing- WHO

· Determination of whether a specific person is the property party to bring a matter to the court for adjudication

· A ruling that there is no standing is not a ruling on the merits

· Constitutional Standing Requirements (congress cannot overrule):

o (1) INJURY- plaintiff must allege that he or she has suffered or imminently will suffer an injury

§ Actual or imminent

§ “Particularize, personal injury”

§ Must show that it will happen again

§ Allen V. Wright- parents of black public school children under desegregation allege that the IRS has not adopted standards to fulfill its obligation to deny tax exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools; court found not actual or imminent injury, psychic injury is not enough

§ Standing requirements are less stringent for states

§ Congress can eliminate prudential concerns and create federal statutory rights, violation of which equals an injury

· Statutory right NOT constitutional right

§ Economic harm works too

§ City of Los Angeles v. Lyons- police held him in a chokehold so he sued for an injunction for future injury; court found that there was not sufficient evidence to say that people will be harmed by chokeholds in the future; must be able to show future injury

· He could sue for damages just not an injunction

§ Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife- congressional statutes cannot confer standing to a plaintiff who suffered no actual harm

§ U.S. v. Hays- you may not assert a generalized grievance against governmental conduct of which one does not approve; no injury because he was not personally subjected to a racial classification

§ FEC v. Akins- statute denied a right of information and that injury (inability to obtain information) was a personal injury that was sufficient standing; congress is allowed to create substantive rights and an infringement of those will result in injury

o (2) CAUSATION- plaintiff must allege that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s conduct

§ Warth v. Seldin- challenged constitutionality of zoning practices because no low income housing was being built; no standing because they could not demonstrate that appropriate low income

§ Simon v. Eastern Kentucky- federal law required hospitals provide free care to poor people, plaintiffs were denied care and the hospital still received the tax exempt; no standing because it was speculative whether IRS law was responsible for plaintiffs being denied free medical care

§ Duke Power v. Carolina Environmental Study Group- standing can occur when BUT FOR the defendant, the injury would not have happened

o (3) REDRESSIBILITY- plaintiff must allege that a favorable federal court decision is likely to redress the injury

§ Linda R.S. v. Richard D.- mother sued to have the father of her child prosecuted for not paying child support; no standing because an injunction commanding state prosecutions would not ensure that the mother would receive any additional child support

· Prudential Requirements (prudent judicial administration/congress can override)

o (1) THIRD PARTY STANDING- party may generally assert only his or her own rights and cannot raise the claims of third parties not before the court

§ EX- doctor can bring a suit against abortion restrictions for himself but not on behave of his patients

§ Policy- third parties are the best proponents of their own rights

§ Requirements:

· (1) does the litigant have standing but also want to assert rights of a third party?

o Cannot just assert a third party’s rights, must have standing yourself

· (2) can the litigant raise the rights of the third party?

o Look to the relationship between the party and the third party

o Look to the inability of the third party to bring his own action


· (1) close relationship between plaintiff and third party- rights are inextricably intertwined

· (2) ability of the third party to bring own suit

§ Singleton v. Wulff- allowed doctors to bring suit on behave of abortion patients because women may have a substantial interest in keeping herself private on matters like that

§ Barrows v. Jackson- white person signed racially restrictive contract and then allowed blacks to live on his property, breach of contract, brought suit on behave of the blacks; yes standing because it would be impossible for blacks to raise the issue because they were not part of the contract

§ Craig v. Boren- bartender sued on behave of men who had to wait until 21 to buy beer; yes standing because he suffered economic loss and vendors were permitted to act on behave of third parties to access their market

§ Gilmore v. Utah- mother could not bring her son’s habeas corpus on behave of him; when third party does not want their rights raised, there is no standing

o (2) GENERALIZED GRIEVANCES- plaintiff may not sue as a taxpayer who shares a grievance in common with ot

ng review

§ If an injury is likely to reoccur in the future and it is possible that it could happen to the plaintiff again, and it is of such short duration that it likely always will evade review

§ EX- abortion, election issues

§ Roe v. Wade- court found that pregnancy has the capability of repetition yet evading review- only 9 months and that is too short for a case to get through the system

§ Defunis v. Odegaard- plaintiff was denied admission but then allowed in due to a preliminary injunction, just as the case got to the supreme court, he was in his third year; court found this case was moot because he was already in and ready to graduate, no chance of repetition

o (2) Voluntary cessation by defendant

§ A case is not to be dismissed as moot if the defendant voluntarily ceases the allegedly improper behavior but is free to return to it at any time

§ Only if there is no reasonable chance that defendant could resume the offending behavior is a cased deemed moot based on voluntary cessation

§ Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Environment Services- defendant stopped dumping into the water and even closed their plants after the lawsuit was filed; court found the case was not moot because they were free to return to dumping or reopen the plant at any time

o (3) Class actions

§ A properly certified class action suit may continue even if the named plaintiff’s claims are rendered so long as the other members of the class have a live controversy

§ U.S. Parole Commn. v. Geraghty- an action brought on behalf of a class does not become moot upon expiration of the named plaintiff’s substantive claim, even though the class certification has been denied

§ (5) The Political Question Doctrine- WHAT

· Refers to allegations of constitutional violations that federal courts will not adjudicate and that the supreme court deems to be inappropriate for judicial review

o Means that it would be better for some other branch to decide this, not the court

· Political question cases are non-justiciable when:

o (1) constitutional text commits the issue to another branch of government

§ Look for textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of issue to coordinate political department

§ Nixon- article 1 states that congress shall have full authority to rule on challenges to the impeachment process

o (2) there is a lack of a judicially manageable standard for adjudication

§ Would resolution of the question demand that a court move beyond areas of judicial expertise?

§ Baker- there are no standards to decide what is a republican form of government under the guaranty clause; court heard the case because it was brought under the equal protection clause

o (3) excessive interference with coordinate branch

§ Clearly prudential- separation of powers

§ EX- foreign affairs