C O N S T I T U T I O N A L L A W I I O U T L I N E
Bodensteiner, Fall 2007
LIMITS ON THE FEDERAL JUDICIAL POWER
Justiciability Limits – Can be either i. Constitutional (Art III), or ii. Prudential
– Five major doctrines of justiciability limits:
i. Prohibition on advisory opinions
ii. Standing – Is the plaintiff qualified to bring this suit?
iv. Mootness – Essentially, plaintiff at one point had a valid legal claim, but because of a recent
development the point is moot
v. The political question doctrine
Prohibition on advisory opinions-
– There must be an actual dispute between adverse litigants.
Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc.-
Issue: Can Congress statutorily require a retrial of actions that had been dismissed by SCOTUS which
would essentially render the earlier ruling an advisory opinions?
Rule: NO. Citing Marbury v. Madison, SCOTUS says that doing so would violate separation of
powers and so cannot be allowed. By retroactively commanding the federal courts to reopen
final judgments, Congress has violated a fundamental principle of separation of powers. This
it cannot do.
– Can be constitutional or prudential.
Allen v. Wright-
Issue: Plaintiffs, parents of black school children attending public schools in districts segregating by
race, bring suit against the IRS for giving those school T.E. status.
Rule: Court fails to find a judicially cognizable injury; the harm alleged is not fairly attributable to the
assertedly unlawful conduct of the IRS. **The essential point here is that the Court seems to
require a more direct or imminent causal connection between the wrongdoing by the defendant
and the harm suffered by the plaintiff. ** Someone suing the gov’t just because it is not
following the Const. to the letter does not have standing unless they are directly affected. It
appears that there must be a personal aspect to the nature of the harm actually incurred.
– Essentially, the Court seeks a showing of injury, causation, and redressability.
City of Los Angeles v. Lyons-
Issue: Plaintiff seeks an injunction and damages against LAPD for them using a particular kind of
chokehold. Damages were for injury he actually suffered; injunction was to prevent the
dept. from employin
i. We prohibit taxpayer standing (generalized grievances standing)
ii. We prohibit 3d party standing (with some notable exceptions as shown below)
Singleton v. Wulff-
Issue: Suit is brought by MO abortion doctors on behalf of abortion patients. (So, this is a 3d pty. standing case from the get-go). The doctors are saying that, by not paying for certain abortions,
MO is interfering with a patients’ right to abortion. Is there adequate 3d pty. standing?
Rule: YES. SCOTUS presents two rule for deciding 3d pty. standing cases:
1. The relationship between the 1st and 3d parties, and
2. The ability of the 3d party to assert her own rights in a suit.
In this case, Court holds that both of our above requirements are unequivocally met and so
standing is allowed. I mean, think about it: a mother who wishes to obtain an abortion
essentially has a moot point after a few months of pregnancy.