Constitutional Law

Marbury v. Madison
Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is unconstitutional to the extent it purports to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. Congress cannot pass laws that are contrary to the Constitution, and it is the role of the Judicial system to interpret what the Constitution permits.

Does Marbury have a right to the commission? (Yes, because it was granted to him) Do the laws of the country give Marbury a legal remedy? (Yes, legal rights were violated so there had to be legal remedy) Is asking the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus the correct legal remedy? (No)

Established power of judicial review.

Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee
Does the U.S. Supreme Court have appellate jurisdiction over state court decisions involving federal law?
Yes. The U.S. Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over state court decisions involving federal law.
The federal power was given directly by the people and not by the States. Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that “in all other cases before mentioned the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction”.
If the Supreme Court could not review decisions from the highest State courts, the state courts necessarily would be excluded from hearing cases involving questions of federal law. It had already been established that state courts have the power to rule on issues of federal law, and therefore the Supreme Court must be able to review those decisions. The Court also held that the Supremacy Clause states that the federal interpretation trumps the states’ interpretation.
Murdock v. Memphis
State court decisions on issues of state law cannot be reviewed by the Court
Michigan v. Long
Court held it can review state supreme court decisions unless they explicitly appealed to state laws
Opinion referred to the state constitution, but otherwise relied exclusively on federal law (not independent and adequate state ground, so SC had jurisdiction)
Justiciability doctrines
No advisory opinions, standing (to sue), ripeness, mootness, political question doctrine.
Advisory opinions
Federal courts cannot issue advisory opinions.
• Separation of powers is respected, Courts kept out of legislative process
• Courts limited to deciding legal disputes, not to give advice to Congress
• No advisory opinions means an actual case or controversy comes to the Court
There must be a concrete dispute between adverse litigants
Has to be a substantial likelihood that a favorable decision in favor of the plaintiff would cause something to change/decision would have some effect
We will write a custom essay sample on
Any topic specifically for you
For only $13.90/page
Order Now
Three standing requirements:
Injury – the plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury.
Causation – there must be an allegation that the injury can be traced to the defendant.
Redressability – it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury
Warth v. Seldin
Petitioners lack standing when not directly injured by the defendant.
Standing will not be found when there is a generalized grievance.
Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp.
Had standing because it was not a generalized grievance.
Unlike the plaintiffs in Warth, Ransom has adequately averred an ‘actionable causal relationship’ between Arlington Heights’ zoning practices and his asserted injury
Flast v. Cohen
Taxpayers have standing to sue to prevent the disbursement of federal funds in contravention of the specific constitutional prohibition against government support of religion.
Linda R. S. v. Richard D.
No standing because it was speculative that the relief requested would remedy the injury.
Sierra Club v. Morton
Lacked standing; petitioner asserted no individualized harm.
Plaintiff had alleged only a “public interest” and not the injury to its members.
United States v. SCRAP
Environmental group had standing to challenge a railroad rate structure of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Plaintiff alleged that its members (five law students) were caused to pay more.
In Sierra Club the plaintiff had alleged only a “public interest” and not the injury to its members.
Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization
Lacked standing; plaintiffs’ complaint did not demonstrate a substantial likelihood that declaring the rulings invalid would result in their receiving the hospital services they desire.
Allen v. Wright
Lacked standing; plaintiffs’ allegations that the IRS practices inhibited the process of desegregation in their children’s public schools did not show injury traceable to the challenged government policy.
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife
Interior Department issued a regulation interpreting the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to be inapplicable to projects undertaken outside the United States. Two scientists claimed they would be affected by overseas projects.

Plaintiffs lacked standing because their injury was speculative, since they alleged only that they intended to return to the overseas sites “some day,” without specifying a definite day; plaintiffs failed to establish injury in fact or redressability

United States v. Hays
Voters attacking an alleged racial gerrymandering lack standing unless they show that they, personally, have been subject to racial discrimination. Only a “generalized grievance” and had not suffered “individualized harm”
Associated General Contractors v. City of Jacksonville
Not necessary that plaintiffs allege or prove that they would have been awarded contracts but for the challenged program. In equal protection cases, the injury in fact is not the denial of the benefit itself but the denial of equal treatment imposed by a barrier to obtaining a benefit – here the inability to compete on an equal footing in the bidding process
Third-party standing
Warth v. Seldin (1975) – plaintiff can assert only injuries that they have suffered
Four major exceptions to prohibition on third-party standing:
• Where the third party is unlikely to be able to sue
• If there is a close relationship between the plaintiff and the third party
Individual is connected to the activities of the third party that are constitutionally protected
Doctors have standing to raise the rights of their patients
• Overbreadth doctrine
Limited to first amendment cases
• Associations and organizations
Can sue someone based on injuries to itself or by alleging injuries to its members
Craig v. Boren
Craig turned 21 before the case reached the Court so the controversy was rendered moot as to Craig. Whitener and other vendors have standing to assert concomitant rights of other parties (such as Craig).
The Court acknowledged that parties economically affected by regulations may challenge those regulations “by acting as advocates of the rights of third parties who seek access to their market or function.”
Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (2007
The Court ruled 5-4 that the State of Massachusetts had standing to challenge the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s decision not to regulate four particular “greenhouse” gases under the section 202(1)(a) of the Clean Air Act.
The majority went on to find the elements of standing to be satisfied because “EPA’s steadfast refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emmissions presents a risk of harm to Massachusetts that is both ‘actual’ and ‘imminent’
NAACP v. Alabama
Allowed standing to represent its members to challenge an Alabama law requiring it to disclose its membership list
Relied on free speech and free association rights of its members
Want to remain anonymous so it was highly unlikely that a member would come forward to challenge the law, therefore, the NAACP could sue on their behalf
Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission
Three part test to determine whether an organization can sue on behalf of its members:
The members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right
The interests that the organization is seeking to protect are germane to the organization’s purpose
Neither the claim that is being argued nor the relief that the organization is requesting would require the participation in the lawsuit of individual members
Flast v. Cohen
Court upheld taxpayer standing to challenge the expenditure of federal funds in violation of the establishment clause, which was a “specific constitutional limitation” on the taxing and spending powers
Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc.
Federal taxpayers challenged the constitutionality of a grant of federal land to a religious college, claiming a violation of the establishment clause. The Court noted “the rigor with which the Flast exception to the Frothingham principle ought to be applied.” It held that there was no taxpayer standing because the legislation authorizing the donation was not an exercise of the taxing and spending power, but of the power under Art. IV, Section 3, Clause 2 to make “rules and regulations respecting the… property belonging to the US.”
Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation
Court ruled that citizens do not have standing as taxpayers to bring Establishment Clause challenges against Executive Branch programs that are funded by appropriations for general administrative expenses. The issue was whether taxpayers have the right to challenge the existence of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

In order to have standing under Flast, a taxpayer must not only challenge a policy on the basis of the Establishment Clause, but also bring the challenge against a congressional expenditure. Since no specific congressional appropriation was implicated in the suit, the Court ruled that there was no “Case or Controversy” under the Flast exception. To extend Flast to executive actions, the Court said, would threaten the separation of powers by relaxing the doctrine of standing and turning federal courts into “general complaint bureaus.”

DeFunis v. Odegaard
Court held that because the University of Washington Law School had agreed to allow DeFunis to enroll and to earn a diploma, the case in question was moot.
The controversy between parties had thus “clearly ceased to be ‘definite and concrete’ and no longer ‘touch[ed] the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests.'”
The inability of the federal judiciary “to review moot cases derives from the requirement of Article III of the Constitution under which the exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a case or controversy.”
Capable of repetition yet evading review
An exception to the requirement that there be a live controversy at the time of decision exists for those controversies “capable of repition yet evading review.” In its DeFunis opinion, the Court concludes that the exception is inapplicable because DeFunis would not be affected by the challenged admission policy in the future and other challengers to the admission procedure could litigate the issues before their claims became moot.

Roe v. Wade (1973) – The state argued that the case was moot because plaintiff Roe had given birth and was no longer pregnant by the time the case was heard. As Justice Blackmun wrote in the majority opinion:
• The normal 266-day human gestation period is so short that the pregnancy will come to term before the usual appellate process is complete. If that termination makes a case moot, pregnancy litigation seldom will survive much beyond the trial stage, and appellate review will be effectively denied. Our law should not be that rigid.

Suits for injunctions and declaratory judgments characteristically relate to the future.

Three situations where they grant review:
Where an individual is faced with the choice between not engaging in alleged unlawful behavior or engaging in it and risking prosecution; where the enforcement of a statute or regulation is certain; collateral injuries (injuries that are not the primary focus of the lawsuit, but that will inevitably occur)

United Public Workers v. Mitchell
In 1939, Congress passed the Hatch Act of 1939, which restricted political campaign activities by federal employees.
When the interests of a case’s litigants require the authority of the court for protection from actual, imminent interference, that case has become ripe for review.
In this case, only Poole falls into this category. Article III states that federal courts do not issue advisory opinions. Justice Reed noted that none of the appellants, except George P. Poole, had violated the provisions of the Hatch Act. When one has not yet violated a law, the violation of that law is a hypothetical threat which does not suffice. The majority of the plaintiffs seek advisory opinions which we cannot issue. Poole’s claim was rejected on the merits, not for ripeness. The rest of the plaintiffs were rejected because their claims were not ripe.
Poe v. Ullman
Connecticut law barring possession of birth control not ripe for constitutional challenge because of lack of enforcement.
Challenged against (successfully) in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
City of Los Angeles v. Lyons (1983)
Lyons sued the municipality and sought damages and injunctive relief in District Court for the Central District of California. He asked the court to issue an injunction preventing the police department from using chokeholds in the future

A plaintiff who wants to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court must allege an “actual case or controversy.” Further, the injury complained of by plaintiff must be immediate. Past exposure to illegal conduct does not, by itself, show a present case or controversy.
Lyons did not have standing to bring this case to the Supreme Court. In order to have standing, a plaintiff must show 1) an actual or likely injury in fact, 2) that the injury is sufficiently concrete and individually affects the plaintiff, 3) that the challenged action is the “cause in fact” of the injury, and 4) that the Court will be able to redress the injury by its decision.

Political question doctrine
Specific areas where the Court has invoked the doctrine
• Republican form of government clause – article 4, section 4
• From the electoral process
• Foreign affairs
• Congress’ ability to regulate its internal processes
• Constitutional amendments and the process for ratifying them
• Situations where a federal court cannot provide effective relief
• Impeachment process
Baker v. Carr
The Court held that a suit by voters seeking reapportionment because the apportionment of a state legislature denied them equal protection of the laws did not involve a nonjusticiable political question.

o Brennan reformulated the political question doctrine, identifying six factors to help in determining which questions were “political” in nature. Cases that are political in nature are marked by:
• “Textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department;” as an example of this, Brennan cited issues of foreign affairs and executive war powers, arguing that cases involving such matters would be “political questions”
• “A lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it;”
• “The impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion;”
• “The impossibility of a court’s undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government;”
• “An unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made;”
• “The potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question.”

Luther v. Borden
In 1841, Rhode Island was still operating under an archaic system of government established by a royal charter of 1663. The charter strictly limited suffrage and made no provision for amendment. Dissident groups, protesting the charter, held a popular convention to draft a new constitution and to elect a governor. The old charter government declared martial law and put down the rebellion, although no federal troops were sent. One of the insurgents, Martin Luther, brought suit claiming the old government was not “a republican form of government” and all its acts were thereby invalid.

The Court held that “the power of determining that a state government has been lawfully established” did not belong to federal courts, and that it was not the function of such courts to prescribe the qualifications for voting in the States. The Court held that the creation of republican forms of government and the control of domestic violence were matters of an essentially political nature committed by the Constitution to the other branches of government. Hence, the Court should defer to Congress and the President when confronted with such issues.

Powell v. McCormack
Congress may not in any way alter the qualifications of its members from the exclusive list given in the Constitution (age, length of citizenship, and inhabitant of state where elected). Therefore, “excluding” a Congressman by a two-thirds majority vote is not allowed although the Constitution allows expulsion by a two-thirds vote.
Nixon v. United States
The contention that Senate committees appointed to gather evidence in an impeachment trial are unconstitutional is nonjusticiable, because impeachment is a political question.
Goldwater v. Carter
o President Jimmy Carter acted without congressional approval in ending a defense treaty with Taiwan.
o Did Congress have a constitutional role to play in the termination of the treaty?
o Without oral argument, the divided justices found that the case was not justiciable. Rehnquist led a group of four others who believed that the issue involved a political question, namely, how the President and Congress would conduct the nation’s foreign affairs. Justice Powell did not find the case ripe for judicial review. He reasoned that since Congress had not formally challenged Carter’s authority, technically there was no conflict for the Court to resolve. The dissenters were prepared to hear the case.
Vieth v. Jubelirer
Dismissed a challenge to partisan gerrymandering
Plurality of justices said such suits pose political questions
Foreign Policy
Court has usually said that cases presenting issues of foreign policy present political questions
o When a war ends and begins is a political question
• Commercial Trust Company v. Miller (1923)
Power to decide when a war ends belongs to Congress
o Recognition of foreign governments is a political question
o Diplomatic status of individuals who claim immunity
• United States v. Belmont (1937)
Confirmed the president’s power to recognize power of Soviet Union