Now I haven’t been tracking any constitutional jurisprudence of late. But I nonetheless found much coincidental irony on the same day as Khadafy’s death in the Congressional tomfoolery noted by U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton in his October 20, 2011 decision in Dennis Kucinich, et al., v. Barack Obama, et al.
Judge Walton tossed out the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction finding that Ohio Congressman Kucinich and his co-plaintiffs and fellow House Members lacked both legislative and taxpayer standing to maintain the action alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution’s War Powers Clause and otherwise challenging the legality of U.S. military operations in Libya. Nine years ago, Congressman Kucinich had a similar War Powers violation suit against President George W. Bush rejected on the same grounds.
Even lawyers who get lost on their way to the courthouse know that to prosecute an action, a plaintiff has to have suffered a “concrete and particularized” injury-in-fact traceable to the act being challenged. “We have consistently held that a plaintiff raising only a generally available grievance about government – claiming only harm to his and every citizen’s interest in proper application of the Constitution and laws, and seeking relief that no more directly and tangibly benefits him than it does the public at large – does not state an Article III case or controversy.” See Lujan v Defenders of Wildlife (1992).
Besides citing Lujan, Judge Walton also relied on No. 96-1671 Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811 (1997), stating, “The Supreme Court has “consistently stressed that a plaintiff’s complaint must establish that he has a ‘personal stake’ in the alleged dispute, and that the alleged injury suffered is particularized to him.” Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 819 (1997).
“Moreover, the “standing inquiry has been especially rigorous when reaching the merits of the dispute would force [a court] to decide whether an action taken by one of the other two branches of the Federal Government was unconstitutional.” Id. at 819-20.”
Scolded for wasting time and resources.
But given the longstanding line of precedent cited by Judge Walton, i.e., that “[t]he question whether members of Congress have standing to sue Executive Branch officials is neither novel nor unsettled.” Kucinich v. Bush, 236 F. Supp. 2d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 2002), the most refreshing part of the all-too-predictable result was the following footnote: “Interestingly, Representative Kucinich, the lead plaintiff in Kucinich v. Bush, the case in which these words were written, is the lead plaintiff in this case in which members of Congress are again attempting to bring an action against Executive Branch officials. Indeed, the plaintiffs “acknowledge the contrary result” reached by the District of Columbia Circuit in a case also involving alleged presidential violations of the War Powers Clause and the War Powers Resolution. See Pls.’ Opp’n at 17.
“While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the President and the Secretary of Defense, in light of shrinking judicial budgets, scarce judicial resources, and a heavy caseload, the Court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the relitigation of settled questions of law. The Court does not mean to imply that the judiciary should be anything but open and accommodating to all members of society, but is simply expressing its dismay that the plaintiffs are seemingly using the limited resources of this Court to achieve what appear to be purely political ends, when it should be clear to them that this Court is powerless to depart from clearly established precedent of the Supreme Court and the District of Columbia Circuit.”
In other words, stop wasting the court’s time and money with silly political grandstanding. But then politicians being what they are, that will never happen.
Indeed, in an emailed statement following the decision, Congressman Kucinich and fellow Representative and co-plaintiff Walter B. Jones wrote, “Judge Reggie Walton has refused to address the merits of the constitutional claim of our case.” Clearly, the Court’s reasoning went over both their heads. But then as Alexander Pope said in “The Essay of Man,” “The fool is happy that he knows no more.”