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A. Scope:  This chapter discusses preconditions which must be satisfied before a federal court will adjudicate a lawsuit, including a suit raising a constitutional claim.

1. Source of preconditions:  Some of these preconditions come from Article III, §2’s limitation of federal jurisdiction to “cases and controversies.” Others come from non-constitutional discretionary policies implemented by the Supreme Court, sometimes called “prudential” considerations. Only if a case satisfies all of these preconditions will it be deemed “justiciable,” i.e., suitable for being disposed of on the merits.

2.Summary of topics:  The preconditions discussed in this chapter include:

a.  that the suit involve a concrete controversy, so that the court will not be issuing an “advisory opinion;”

b.  that the plaintiff have “standing,” i.e., an appropriate interest or stake in the matters under suit;

c.  that the suit not be “moot” because of events which have occurred following institution of the action;

d.  that the suit be “ripe,” i.e., sufficiently well-developed and specific to merit adjudication;

e.  that the suit (or appeal to the Supreme Court) not be one from which the federal courts should abstain for the sake of certain discretionary policies (e.g., non-interference with state court proceedings in order to promote federalism); and

f. that the case not present a non-justiciable “political question.”

B. Policies served:  Most of these requirements for justiciability further one or both of the following policies, implicit within the constitutional requirement of a “case or controversy”:

1.  the limitation of federal court jurisdiction to issues presented in an adversary context and capable of being resolved by the judiciary; and

2.  the maintenance of the separation of powers, by assuring that the federal courts do not intrude into areas reserved for the two other branches of government. See Tribe, p. 67.

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