Jul 21, 2017

Can the court here this case in terms of justiciability, due to the political nature of the controversy?

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Michigan v. Long (1983)



Due to the ruling in the Colegrove v. Green case, states that had not reapportioned since

1990 were not bound constitutionally to do so. This led to problems in the Tennessee

between rural an urban voters (105). The legislator was overwhelmingly backed by urban

constituents and was not inclined to change the districts. This left the rural population

looking elsewhere for redress. They claimed that under the 14th Amendment’s equal

protection clause every person had to be treated fairly under the law. The applied this to

their voting rights and the reapportionment of their state.


Constitutional Provision:

  • • 14th Amendment; Equal Protection Clause
  • • Article IV, Section 3 (Guaranty Clause)


Legal Question:

  • • Can the court here this case in terms of justiciability, due to the political nature of

the controversy?

  • • Does the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause apply here? Or does it fall

under the Guaranty Clause?



  • • Court recognizes that if the controversy has a political nature it does not

necessarily mean that the court is answering a political question.

  • • The court does not hear cases involving a political question because of the

separation of powers.

  • • A court can in special circumstances interpret a treaty where no “government

action” has been taken (107).

  • • Where criteria are plainly laid out for decision the court may become involved


  • • Various components can make a political question, but all are included as part of

the separation of powers.

  • • Guaranty clause claims deal with the elements involved in political questions



  • • Luther v. Borden states that the court cannot use the Guaranty Clause as a way to

“identify a State’s lawful government” (108).

  • • The court has not been asked to take measures outside their purview and

recognize that the people of Tennessee, who are bringing suit, have sought every

other remedy possible.

  • • Concurring; Justice Clark: Clark agrees that a violation has occurred of the Equal

Protection Clause, however, cautions that the nature of the dispute is complicated

and would not agree if there was any other option to the voters.

  • • Dissenting; Justices Frankfurter and Harlan: The justices believe that the case is

in fact under the Guaranty Clause and not that of the Equal Protection Clause. The

court is not a place for “political debate” and that appellants claim attempts to

change the political influence of a group. The justices also point out that the

Tennessee voters still have the right to vote. They find that the issue of

reapportionment is a political one and is therefore not to be heard by the court.


Outcome of Case:

  • • Court finds that the issue falls under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause

and not under the political question Guaranty Clause.

  • • Allegations made by the Tennessee voters are worthy of redress and are entitled

to a trial; case reversed and remanded.



  • • Outlines what is and is not a political question.
  • • Justiciability of a political controversy.
LawInsert name:Institution affiliation:Due date:Case: Michigan v. LongCite: 463 U.S 1032 (1983)Vote: 6-3 Opinion: O’ConnorFacts:Police officers interrogated David Long after driving his vehicle off the road and plunged into a shallow ditch in Barry County, Michigan. Police officers claimed that Long acted carelessly and seemed to under influence of a drug or something else. The officers conducted a search and found out a hunting knife in Long’s car. The police believed that the car carried dangerous weapons, and they wanted to protect themselves and nearby citizens. They carried out search with the same intention though did not find any weapon, but they identified a bag of marijuana. The officers found extra pounds of marijuana in the truck of Long’s car. The police officers arrested Long for possessing illegal drugs. Long appealed the case to suppress the evidence taken from his car. Long argued that the search was illegal, and therefore unconstitutional. Long appealed his case to the Michigan court of appeal which did not favor his request of suppressing the evidence. Nevertheless, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the Michigan court of appeal. The Michigan Supreme Court did not rely on the federal precedent particularly Terry v. Ohio, and therefore justified the search was against the fourth amendment. The search was thus unconstitutional and must be discarded. Long argued that the search was against the Fifth Amendment (b...

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