Political Question Doctrine – Can I ask a Political Question?

Political Question Doctrine

The short answer is no. Remember that the Constitution gives the judicial branch (i.e., federal courts) the power to decide actual cases and controversies. However, due to the political-question doctrine, federal courts will NOT decide political questions that should be resolved by another branch of government. This means that you cannot ask a political question because federal courts simply cannot hear them!

How do you determine when a case involves a nonjusticiable political question? There are two main factors for determining when a case does so:

  1. When the Constitution has reserved decision-making on an issue to the executive or legislative branch
  2. When there is a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards to resolve the issue.

When one or both of these factors are present, the federal court must dismiss the case.

To make it easier to spot a political question on the MBE®, UWorld created this chart that contains eight common nonjusticiable political questions:

Nonjusticiable political questions 
(issues incapable of judicial resolution)
* Recognition of foreign governments
* Reception of ambassadors
* Nature of war/hostilities
* Partisan gerrymandering
* Guarantee of republican form of government
* Recognition of Native American tribes
* House/Senate rules for impeachment
* Ratification process for constitutional amendments

Use this tip when answering political doctrine questions in the UWorld MBE QBank. Access our free trial or purchase a subscription.

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