Political Question Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Political Question, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Political Question?

n. These are issues that the court generally the supreme court decides not to try as they are matters of public significance and should be tried by the elected and selected members of the society.

History and Meaning of Political Question

The term "political question" refers to issues that the court generally decides not to try because they are matters of public significance that should be decided by elected or appointed members of society. This doctrine of "political question" originated in the United States Federal Courts and is rooted in the idea of separation of powers.

The first case where the Supreme Court explicitly used this term was in the 1849 case called Luther v. Borden, where the court held that it is up to Congress and the President to determine whether a government is Republican in nature or not. Since then, the Court has used this doctrine to abstain from deciding certain controversies. The political question doctrine is based on the idea that some issues should be left to the political branches of government to decide, rather than to the judiciary, which is a non-political, legal authority.

Examples of Political Question

  1. Impeachment. The impeachment process is considered a political question and is left in the hands of Congress.

  2. Gerrymandering. The Supreme Court ruled that the issue of partisan gerrymandering is a political question and that it is not up to the courts to decide.

  3. War Powers. The question of whether the president has the power to take the country to war without congressional approval is considered a political question that should be decided by elected officials.

Legal Terms Similar to Political Question

  1. Ripeness. Ripeness is a term used to describe cases that are not yet ready for judicial review.

  2. Standing. Legal standing refers to the ability of a party to demonstrate that they have suffered harm or are in immediate danger of suffering harm from the actions of another party and have a sufficient stake in the matter to bring the case to court.

  3. Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the power of a court to hear and decide a particular case.