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The Power of Judicial Review

In Custodia Legis: The following is a guest post by Janeen Williams, a Legal Reference Specialist with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress. “The federal judiciary has the authority to review actions of the legislative and executive branches to verify that they comport with the Constitution see Marbury v. Madison). However, judicial review does not extend to all issues. A case is justiciable if it is the type of dispute that a court can properly adjudicate. Justiciability is determined by examining a variety of factors or requirements. One factor that determines justiciability is the subject or issue at the heart of the dispute. The dispute must be an actual case or controversy between two adverse parties in order to be justiciable. The “Political Question Doctrine” is another justiciability factor.  Political questions are non-justiciable because Congress and the executive branch, or the political branches, are in a better position to resolve question that are political in nature. Historically, the judiciary has deemed disputes that are political and require examination of powers given to the other branches by the Constitution to be outside the realm of judicial review. The modern political question doctrine first emerged in Baker v. Carr, which was decided in the early 1960s.  The Court in Baker established a six-factor test to determine if the issue in question in a controversy is a political question. A podcast episode from Radiolab’s More Perfect takes a deep dive into the Baker case and its lasting implications…”

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