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The purpose of the political question doctrine is to allow the power of the Court to deny a case its ruling if they deem it able to be allocated to another area of jurisdiction or if it lacks justiciability. In essence, it is the job of the Court to determine whether particular cases are more pertinent to the federal judiciary or the elected officials of the legislative or executive branches of government. However, there have been instances in which the political question doctrine seems to have been abused. Does the Supreme Court use the political question doctrine to avoid making controversial decisions, or is there a principled explanation for its use? Chief Justice John Marshall contended that when a case within the Supreme Court's jurisdiction qualifies for review by constitutional standards the Court is obligated to decide the case on its merits. But the Court has realized the impracticality of so rigid an interpretation of the Constitution, especially when a case threatens to propel it into uncharted political waters. Marshall himself perceived this dilemma in Marbury v. Madison. It was not long before a new category of cases appeared that involved nonjusticiable political questions. The irony of this political questions doctrine is that its existence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt the excessive political nature of the judicial process. If the justices were to consider, implicitly or explicitly, questions of power and influence, questions affecting the Court's prestige and status, the judiciary's relationship to the other branches of the government, and the problem with the Court's ability to decide a particular case effectively, by any implication that it decides only "nonpolitical" questions. Thus the political questions doctrine is not a constitutionally mandated dividing line between appropriate and inappropriate issues, but rather a discretionary device to permit the federal courts to avoid deciding certain inconvenient questions. Its precise scope and application are difficult to distinguish to some.

In the case of Powell v. McCormack, the use of the political question doctrine may come across to have been used in an unjust manner. In Powell v. McCormick, the Court further demonstrated its determination to narrow the political questions doctrine. In November 1966, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a prominently known, black preacher and political leader, was reelected to Congress by the Harlem constituency he had served since 1942. Because of allegations about improper use of congressional funds and other political misbehavior, the House of Representatives did not permit Powell to take his seat at the beginning of the Ninetieth Congress in January 1967, and eventually voted to exclude him. Powell and some of his supporters filed suit in a federal district court, claiming that the House could exclude him only if he failed to meet the requirements of age, citizenship, and residence described in A1S2 of the Constitution, which he clearly met. Yet it held that exclusion for reasons other than those prescribed in the Constitution did not present a nonjusticiable political question. The Court then held that Powell had been unlawfully excluded. Powell made other allegations, including that the Sergeant-at-Arms refused to pay Powell his salary, that the doorkeeper denied Powell admission into the House chamber, and that the Clerk of the House threatened that he would refuse to perform services for Powell. Prior to such, the House alleged that after an investigation of expenditures of the Committee on Education and Labor, that is when it was found that Powell had improperly made use of the Congressional funds. Mr Powell was then removed from his position as the chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor.

The District Court dismissed the petitioner's complaint "for want of jurisdiction of the subject matter". A panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, although on somewhat different grounds, each judge filing a separate opinion. The Supreme Court later reversed these decisions and stated that the lower courts were in error when they dismissed the claims. It was also stated that Powell was unlawfully excluded from the 90th Congress because he met all the requirements to be in that position according to the Constitution. McCulloch v. Maryland 17 U.S. 316 (1819) was a very influential case in U.S. History. After the First Bank of the United States had folded in 1811 due to a lack of congressional support, inflation in the years following the American Revolution compelled Congress to establish a new national bank. The Second Bank of the United States was authorized by Congress to help control the unregulated issuance of currency by state banks. Many continued to oppose the bank's constitutionality, and Maryland set an example by imposing a tax on all banks not chartered by the state. When the U.S. branch bank in Baltimore refused to pay taxes, Maryland brought suit for collection from the bank. The chartering of a bank, according to the Court, was a power implied from the power over federal fiscal operations. Because the state cannot impede constitutional Federal Laws, the tax was voted unconstitutional. The inability to impede in such a manner was shown to be another form of justiciable political question. One of the most important decisions in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall's opinion called for a broad interpretation of the powers of the federal government. The case became the legal cornerstone of subsequent expansions of federal power, and another positive implementation of the political question doctrine.

While the political question doctrine has shown to be time conserving and helpful in many cases, there is one particular case in which the political question doctrine did a bit of a disservice. In the case, Dred Scott v. Sanford 60 U.S. 393 (1857), political question was exercised in a different manner than usual. Instead of the court refusing to reach a decision or hear the case based on justiciability, the court's decision was based on jurisdiction. Not only was the case pivotal for political question, but it was also made a spectacle of criticism of our nation's history of slavery and racism. Dred Scott, a slave who lived in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin before moving back to the slave state of Missouri, had appealed to the Supreme Court in hopes of being granted his freedom. Chief Justice Taney, who was an avid supporter of slavery, believed that Scott not only should remain a slave, but that he did not classify as a citizen because he was a black man. Due to all of the controversy and negativity that arose from the rulings of a harsh and prejudice Justice Taney, the Dred Scott case is seen to be one of the worst political decisions in our nation's history. Because the case dealt with an issue that was laid out in the U.S. Constitution, it was out of the hands of the court, and into the hands of Congress. Ultimately, Dred Scott was denied his rights to freedom, which was very unfortunate. However, the use of the political question doctrine in Dred Scott v. Sanford was correct and justified. In determining political question, two major concepts have come about as the reasoning thereof, those being justiciability and jurisdiction. If the case is not found to be justiciable or within the jurisdiction of the Court, it meets the standards laid out by the political question doctrine, and will not be ruled upon by the Court. Behind the tests for justiciability are a number of legal doctrines. The Supreme Court has declared that the doctrines have both constitutional and prudential components: Some parts are required by the Constitution, according to the Court's interpretation of Article III, and some are based on what the Court considers prudent judicial administration.

This distinction has important consequences for the limits of judicial power. Congress has the authority to pass laws that override only the prudential limits of judicial review; it cannot pass laws that override constitutional limits. Thus, the Supreme Court has insulated the federal courts from congressional influence in some but not all areas of justiciability. The question of justiciability also involves the legal relationship of the parties in the case, as well as the substance of their dispute. To be found justiciable, the case must involve parties who have an adversary controversy between them. Moreover, the issues in the controversy must be "real and substantial," and therefore more than mere generalized interests common to the public at large. A related rule forbids the federal courts to issue advisory opinions. It holds that they must decline to rule on merely hypothetical or abstract questions. In addition, they are restricted from taking cases that address purely political questions, which are beyond management by the judiciary. Certain state courts do issue advisory opinions on legal questions. The other area of importance in classifying a case by political question is the jurisdiction that it falls under. As is seen in the Dred Scott case, there may be times in which the case applies directly to or goes against the U.S. Constitution, which places it in the hands of the executive or legislative branches of government. In situations like this, it is out of the Court's control and that matter, as well as those of similar nature, will not be taken on.

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