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Law School Case Brief

International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union v. Boyd - 347 U.S. 222


Determination of the scope and constitutionality of legislation in advance of its immediate adverse effect in the context of a concrete case involves too remote and abstract an inquiry for the proper exercise of the judicial function.


Petitioners, a labor union and some of its alien members, sued to enjoin Respondent, a District Director of Immigration and Naturalization, from so construing § 212 (d)(7) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 so as to treat aliens domiciled in the continental United States returning from temporary work in Alaska as if they were aliens entering the United States for the first time. Petitioners also sought a declaratory judgment that, if so construed, § 212 (d)(7) was unconstitutional. The case came before it on stipulated facts and issues of law, from which it appeared that the union has over 3,000 members who work every summer in the herring and salmon canneries of Alaska, that some of these are aliens, and that if alien workers going to Alaska for the 1953 canning season were excluded on their return, their "contract and property rights [would] be jeopardized and forfeited." The District Court entertained the suit but dismissed it on the merits. Petitioners sought certiorari review.



Did the district court err in dismissing the action seeking a declaratory judgment?




On this appeal, contendsRespondent Director argued that the District Court should not have ever reached the statutory and constitutional questions, but rather, that it should have dismissed the suit for want of a "case or controversy," i.e. for lack of standing. The United States Supreme Court found that there was no case or controversy upon which the court could rule because no adverse effects had befallen petitioners. Petitioners were merely seeking assurances that a statute did not apply to them in certain hypothetical situations. Petitioners were not trying to enforce a right, they were only seeking a construction of the statute at hand. There had been no adverse effect on petitioners. Since there was no controversy the district court's decision was vacated with directions to dismiss the complaint.

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