United States v. Munoz-Flores

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Munoz-Flores
LOCATION: Buie Residence

DOCKET NO.: 88-1932
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 495 US 385 (1990)
ARGUED: Feb 20, 1990
DECIDED: May 21, 1990

Judy Clare Clarke - on behalf of the Respondent
William C. Bryson - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Munoz-Flores

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1990 in United States v. Munoz-Flores

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in No. 88-1932, United States against German Munoz-Flores.

Mr. Bryson.

William C. Bryson:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The issue in this case is whether the Federal Special Assessment Statute must be struck down on the ground that it is contrary to the Origination Clause of the United States Constitution.

There are two subsidiary questions here.

First, whether questions regarding inconsistency of the federal statute with the Origination Clause present nonjusticiable political questions.

And second, assuming that the question is justiciable, whether in fact there was a violation of the Origination Clause in this case.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Did your office raise the justiciability question in its petition for certiorari?

William C. Bryson:

Not directly, Your Honor.

We argued--

Harry A. Blackmun:

But then you don't think much of it, I take it.

William C. Bryson:

--Well, Your Honor, we felt that the issue on which there was a conflict among the lower courts at the time we filed the petition and a conflict among the circuits at the time we... this Court addressed the petition, was the... on the merits.

There was no conflict on the justiciability question.

Now, we did advert in the petition to the issue of justiciability suggesting that at minimum the question of... on the merits should be addressed with an eye towards the problems with justiciability and, therefore, that the merits should be viewed with... by extending great discretion to the... to the House in deciding whether an Origination Clause violation had occurred.

But, no, we didn't directly raise... raise the point.

We... we do think, however, that the point does have merit.

And since the Court has directed the parties to address the question, we... we have done so and we believe that... that would be a perfectly legitimate ground for a decision in this case.

And... at... at bottom what... what this issue presents, the whole political question doctrine is summed up, I think, well in a quote from Coleman against Miller which was reiterated in Baker against Carr.

And that is it deals with the appropriateness of attributing finality to the action of the political departments.

There are a lot of different kinds of political questions, as the Court discussed in Baker against Carr.

There are political questions in which there is a textual commitment of the issue to one branch.

There are cases in which there are strong prudential reasons for the court's not becoming involved in a particular question.

Issues involving foreign affairs figure prominently in that list.

This case is a somewhat different case.

It doesn't... there is no direct textual commitment in the Constitution of this issue to the legislature.

But we believe that when you look at all the factors bearing on the question of justiciability of Origination Clause questions, that you conclude that indeed it is not appropriate for the Court to interfere with the judgment that was made by the House and by the legislature as a whole that there was not Origination Clause problem in this case.

This is as Alexander Hamilton--

William H. Rehnquist:

But, Mr. Bryson, does that mean in some other case one would not defer?

William C. Bryson:


Our position is that with respect to the Origination Clause challenges, that they are subject to political question doctrine across the board.