Monday, December 08, 2008

Supreme Court Denies Review of Obama Citizenship Case

Unsurprising. The article says what I suspected but was unsure of -- that both the orders of Justice Souter and Justice Thomas were routine decisions that had nothing to do with the merits of the case itself.

The Obama case was dismissed on "standing" grounds, which is essentially the doctrine the courts use to avoid hearing cases they really don't want to hear (see also: The Pledge case). Now, courts do this all the time, but there is something admittedly unseemly about it. If a Justice who is particularly incensed about the practice is faced with a case such as this, what is he do? Should he just let it slide because it'd be really awkward for the court to hear the issue?

The answer might be that the judge should wait for a less politically charged case to present itself with the same issue. The problem is that elections are always politically charged (albeit some less so than this), and in any event, that sort of thinking is precisely the sort that points towards these faux-standing rulings in the first place. So I can imagine a somewhat ornery judge trying to make trouble for his colleagues by sending a message that he thinks they are engaging in extra-legal reasoning -- a point that can be made while still thinking the underlying merits of the case are absolute garbage.


Jack said...

Huh? Maybe its true that the court sometimes uses standing to avoid politically contentious cases but its also A REAL THING and a reasonable requirement for plaintiffs to meet. And in this case the plaintiffs pretty clearly didn't have it. I don't know the courts motivations exactly, but its not like they fabricated their reason.

Is there evidence that standing issues are ignored when the court does want to hear a case?

David Schraub said...

Oh standing is a real thing, don't get me wrong. But court's also love to use shaky standing arguments to get rid of cases they don't like. I don't know enough about standing doctrine to know if these plaintiff's represented a close call (i.e., should there be taxpayer -- or I guess, voter -- standing to challenge the qualifications of presidential candidates), but one can imagine that even if it is not a clear question of law, the court would pretend like it is to get out of the problem.

PG said...

I don't think this was anywhere near a close case -- the Court has been pretty consistently opposed to taxpayer/ voter standing, especially when it comes to decisions dealing with mucky political matters. Let McCain (or given his own dubious birth as a "native born citizen," Nader or Barr) challenge Obama if there's anything worth challenging.

Also, David, do you really think it's a good thing to post about how standing is just this made up thing judges do to avoid hearing cases they don't want to mess with? That's gotta be getting linked by some ignorant wingnut right now to bolster the tinfoil hat brigade's conviction that WE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!