Powell v. McCormack Case Brief

Summary of Powell v. McCormack
S. Ct. 1969

Facts: Powell was elected by the citizen of NY to be their Representative in the House for the 90th Congress. When the oath was being administered he was asked to step aside. A Select Committee determined that although Powell met the Constitutional requirements, they felt because he asserted an unwarranted privilege of immunity from NY courts, and wrongfully diverted funds, and made false reports on expenditures of foreign currency, he should be excluded from taking his seat. House speaker McCormack determined that a majority vote would render Powell’s seat vacant, and a vote thereby was rendered.

Issue: Whether the House alone, under Article I, Sec. 5, has the power to determine who is qualified to be a member, under the “textual commitment," to “be the judge of the qualifications of is own members?

Holding: No, the House can only judge the three qualifications as set forth in the Constitution.

Procedure: District Ct. dismissed for lack of jurisdictional subject matter. Ct of App affirmed Dismissal. Reversed.

Rule: Requirements for a seat within the Congress, AI; S2, age, citizenship, and residence.

Ct. Rationale: Article I, Sec 5 does not confer judicially unreviewable powers upon the Congress as it relates to the setting of qualifications of its members. If it did that would be a political question that this court would be barred from entering into. Historically the Constitution leaves the House without authority to exclude persons, who met the Constitutional requirements, and who have been duly elected by their constituents. Congress has the power to punish its members’ behavior, and expel but it does not have the Constitutional power to exclude or deny entrance.

PL A: The Constitution provides definite criteria for entrance into the House of Representative, and does not confer the power to exclude afterward to members of the House.

Def A: Under the Constitution’s AI, S5 the House has power to determine the qualifications necessary for membership within.

Political Questions: Lack of respect due a coordinate branch of government, or involvement in the initial policy determination of a kind clearly for non-judicial discretion.

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