Limits on the Federal Judiciary Power
Interpretive Limits—Supreme Court is bound by the language of the constitution. There is a document that must be interpreted.
Congressional Limits—Per Art. III
These delineate separation of power. In Marbury v. Madison Congress exceeded its constitutional limits by granting excess power to the Court. Examples—Congressional bills to take away power of federal courts to hear cases on abortion, etc.
Prohibition of advisory opinions—There must be an actual dispute. This makes for a less activities judiciary. If advisory opinions were allowed—when would the court get involved? When a bill passes one house? A committee? When it is proposed?
Plaut v. Spend Thrift Farms (1995)
F—Congress passed legislation to allow dismissed cases to be brought and amend SOL.
H—Violation of Separation of Powers
R—Requires courts to reopen cases on which final judgment has been rendered. Turns decisions already issued into advisory opinions.
i. Declaratory Judgments—They are justiciable so long as they meet the requirements for judicial review. Not an advisory opinion b/c there already was a dispute; and b/c it binds the parties involved. It avoids disruption and nasty litigation. It does look a little like an advisory opinion.
Standing—Is the plaintiff the one who can bring this suit? Article III discusses “cases and controversies.” If you do not have standing then there is no case or controversy.
i. Constitutional standing requirements—Article III. To have standing one must have: (1) Injury; (2) Injury must be traceable to the defendant; (3) redress or remedy.
ii. Prudential standing requirements—The court has identified two major prudential standing principles. (1) A party may only assert his own rights—cannot raise claims of 3rd parties; (2) Plaintiff may not sue as a taxpayer who shares a grievance in common with all other taxpayers.
Allen v. Wright (1984)
F—Black parents sue IRS for giving tax-exempt status to school that discriminates on basis of race. IRS policy is to deny tax-exempt status to schools that do not comply.
H—Parents do not have standing to challenge IRS regulations on two grounds (1) Injury—No specific injury, this was too general, no actual injury. This is too abstract, it would allow a black person in HI to claim injury based on tax exemption against a school in ME. (2) Causation—Here the harm is not fairly traceable to the defendant. Court says that the schools (non party to the suit) are the cause of injury—not the IRS.
TH—Court is also unwilling to make IRS the policeman over all actors and acts.
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992)
F—Endangered Species Act required agencies consult interior secretary to ensure federal projects do not threaten endangered species. The act authorized any person to sue the administrative agency for violating it.
H—Congressional statute does not give standing to plaintiffs who suffer no actual injury.
R—Injury—No facts demonstrated how damage to species caused any injury to the plaintiffs. Redressability—The agency is actually funding the projects that would harm the animals were not parties to the case. Wildlife Defenders only sue Lujan—the interior secretary. They would have to include the funding agencies themselves.
TH—Congress can’t confer standing by statute to citizens not actually injured in fact.
City of LA v. Lyons (1983)
F—Adolph Lyons was placed in a chokehold rendering him unconscious and hurting his voice box. Sued LA cops for damages and an injunction to prevent future use of chokehold, which had killed 10 s
statute that donated land to Christian college.
H—Taxpayer group does not have standing to bring federal suit.
R—It fails the first prong b/c it is simply giving out surplus property. It is not under taxing and spending power. It isn’t taxing and spending power b/c they are challenging act of a secretary of Health Education and Welfare, not at the action of Congress under its tax and spending power.
Elk Grove Unified School Dist v. Newdow (2004)
F—Newdow is divorced atheist who objected to his kindergarten daughter reciting the Pledge of Allegiance—“under God.” Congress amended statute in 1954 to include the words “under God.” Contends that this violates statute under Establishment Clause.
H—Newdow does not have standing.
R—Newdow is the non-custodial parent. State court gave mother the right to make legal decisions regarding the child. This establishes a “new rule”—improper for federal courts to consider a claim by a person based on a disputed family law right.
Poe v. Ullman (1961)
F—Doctor and patients challenged CT law forbidding medical staff from giving information on contraceptives.
H—Declaratory judgment that a criminal statute would apply does not make the issue constitutionally ripe for federal courts when the persons in question have not been prosecuted.
R—No prosecution on this law since 1940. Court saw no real threat of law being enforced and thus there was no controversy, it was not ripe.