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Goldwater v. Carter

Citation. 444 U.S. 996, 100 S. Ct. 533, 62 L. Ed. 2d 428, 1979 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendant, United States President Jimmy Carter (Defendant), rescinded a treaty with Taiwan as part of recognizing the People’s Republic of China. The Plaintiff, United States Senator Barry Goldwater (Plaintiff), sued, alleging that the Senate must rescind treaties.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Questions of a purely political nature are nonjusticiable.


While recognizing the People’s Republic of China, the Defendant rescinded the United States treaty with Taiwan. Plaintiff sued, arguing that as the Senate must ratify treaties, the Senate’s approval is also required to rescind treaties.


Is the present case justiciable?


No. Case reversed and remanded for dismissal. There is no majority opinion.


Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan), concurring in judgment, dissents. He argues that the case is not ripe, as there has not yet been Congressional action, but argues that if there were, this is not a nonjusticiable political question as defined in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962).
Concurrence. Justice William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist), concurring, views the case as entirely political, and therefore nonjusticiable. In particular, the constitution is silent as to the rescinding of treaties. The fact that different termination standards may be proper for different treaties, the matter should be left to the political branches.
Justice Lewis Powell (J. Powell), concurring, views the case as not ripe for review. Specifically, as the Senate has not yet taken official action, the political branches are not yet at a constitutional impasse.


In the absence of a majority opinion, Goldwater v. Carter represents both the United States Supreme Court’s (Supreme Court) political question jurisprudence and ripeness law.

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