The Political Question Doctrine: Suggested Criteria

76 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2005

See all articles by Jesse H. Choper

Jesse H. Choper

University of California at Berkeley School of Law


Whether there should be a political question doctrine and, if so, how it should be implemented continue to be contentious and controversial issues, both within and outside the Court. This Article urges that the Justices should reformulate the detailed definition that they have utilized (at least formally) since 1962, and adopt four criteria to be applied in future cases. The least disputed - textual commitment - is the initial factor listed in Baker v. Carr. The other three are based on functional considerations rather than constitutional language or original understanding. The first of these - structural issues: federalism and separation of powers - has been advanced and developed at length in my earlier work. It is based on a comparative advantage of the political process over the Court in sound constitutional decisionmaking respecting the relevant issues, as well as the trustworthiness respecting fundamental values of the national legislative/executive branches in doing so. The remaining two criteria involve removing questions of individual rights from the judiciary's realm, something that would (and should) occur very infrequently. The manageable standards test recognizes that there may be constitutional provisions for which the Court lacks the capacity to develop clear and coherent principles. The generalized grievance guide is similar in many ways to structural issues in that it is also grounded in matters of comparative advantage and trustworthiness of results.

Suggested Citation

Choper, Jesse H., The Political Question Doctrine: Suggested Criteria. Duke Law Journal, Forthcoming; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 757964. Available at SSRN:

Jesse H. Choper (Contact Author)

University of California at Berkeley School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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