Colegrove v. Green

328 U.S. 549, 66 S. Ct. 1198 (1946)



If due regard for the effective working of the government reveals an issue to be of a peculiarly political nature, it is not meet for judicial determination.


Three persons who were qualified to vote in congressional districts of Illinois which have much larger populations than other congressional districts of that State, brought suit in a Federal District Court in Illinois, under the Declaratory Judgment Act. The suit sought to restrain officers of the State from arranging for an election, in which members of Congress were to be chosen, pursuant to provisions of an Illinois law of 1901 governing congressional districts. The complaint alleged that, by reason of later changes in population, the congressional districts created by the Illinois law lacked compactness of territory and approximate equality of population; and prayed a decree, with incidental relief, declaring the provisions of the state law invalid as in violation of various provisions of the Federal Constitution and in conflict with the Reapportionment Act of 1911, as amended. The District Court dismissed the complaint. 


Can federal courts decide inherently political questions?




The Court upheld the dismissal by the district court and found that the basis for the action was not a private wrong but a wrong suffered by a state as a polity. The Court held that U.S. Const. art. I, § 4 provided that the times, places, and manner of holding elections for representatives, were prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof, but Congress could at any time by law make or alter such regulations. Congress had exclusive authority to secure fair representation by the states in the popular house and left to that house the determination of whether states had fulfilled their responsibility. The Court held that to sustain the action would cut very deep into the very being of congress and that courts ought not to enter that political thicket. The duty to see to it that the laws were faithfully executed could not be brought under legal compulsion.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.