Justiciable

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Capable of being decided by a court.

Not all cases brought before courts are accepted for their review. The U.S. Constitution limits the federal courts to hearing nine classes of cases or controversies, and, in the twentieth century, the Supreme Court has added further restrictions. State courts also have rules requiring matters brought before them to be justiciable.

Before agreeing to hear a case, a court first examines its justiciability. This preliminary review does not address the actual merits of the case, but instead applies a number of tests based on judicial doctrines. At their simplest, the tests concern (1) the plaintiff, (2) the adversity between the parties, (3) the substance of the issues in the case, and (4) the timing of the case. For a case to be heard, it must survive this review. In practice, courts have broad power to apply their tests: they commonly emphasize whichever factors they deem important. This irregularity has made the analysis of justiciability a difficult task for lawyers, scholars, and the courts themselves.

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.

Among the most complex justiciability doctrines is standing, which covers the plaintiff. Standing focuses on the party, not on the issues he wishes to have adjudicated (Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 88 S. Ct. 1942, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947). A claimant said to have standing has been found by the court to have the right to a trial. To reach such a determination, the court uses several general rules. These rules require that the claimant has suffered an actual or threatened injury; that the case alleges a sufficient connection (or nexus) between the injury and the defendant's action; that the injury can be redressed by a favorable decision; and that the plaintiff neither

brings a generalized grievance nor represents a third party....

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