Friday, October 28, 2011

“seven pillars” of limitations of the power of judicial review

In Demetria v. Alba, this Court, through Justice Marcelo Fernan cited the “seven pillars” of limitations of the power of judicial review, enunciated by US Supreme Court Justice Brandeis in Ashwander v. TVA as follows:
1. The Court will not pass upon the constitutionality of legislation in a friendly, non-adversary proceeding, declining because to decide such questions ‘is legitimate only in the last resort, and as a necessity in the determination of real, earnest and vital controversy between individuals. It never was the thought that, by means of a friendly suit, a party beaten in the legislature could transfer to the courts an inquiry as to the constitutionality of the legislative act.’
2. The Court will not ‘anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it.’ . . . ‘It is not the habit of the Court to decide questions of a constitutional nature unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case.’
3. The Court will not ‘formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied.’
4. The Court will not pass upon a constitutional question although properly presented by the record, if there is also present some other ground upon which the case may be disposed of. This rule has found most varied application. Thus, if a case can be decided on either of two grounds, one involving a constitutional question, the other a question of statutory construction or general law, the Court will decide only the latter. Appeals from the highest court of a state challenging its decision of a question under the Federal Constitution are frequently dismissed because the judgment can be sustained on an independent state ground.
5. The Court will not pass upon the validity of a statute upon complaint of one who fails to show that he is injured by its operation. Among the many applications of this rule, none is more striking than the denial of the right of challenge to one who lacks a personal or property right. Thus, the challenge by a public official interested only in the performance of his official duty will not be entertained . . . In Fairchild v. Hughes, the Court affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought by a citizen who sought to have the Nineteenth Amendment declared unconstitutional. In Massachusetts v. Mellon, the challenge of the federal Maternity Act was not entertained although made by the Commonwealth on behalf of all its citizens.
6. The Court will not pass upon the constitutionality of a statute at the instance of one who has availed himself of its benefits.
7. When the validity of an act of the Congress is drawn in question, and even if a serious doubt of constitutionality is raised, it is a cardinal principle that this Court will first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the question may be avoided (citations omitted).
The foregoing “pillars” of limitation of judicial review, summarized in Ashwander v. TVA from different decisions of the United States Supreme Court, can be encapsulated into the following categories:
1. that there be absolute necessity of deciding a case
2. that rules of constitutional law shall be formulated only as required by the facts of the case
3. that judgment may not be sustained on some other ground
4. that there be actual injury sustained by the party by reason of the operation of the statute
5. that the parties are not in estoppel
6. that the Court upholds the presumption of constitutionality.
As stated previously, parallel guidelines have been adopted by this Court in the exercise of judicial review:
1. actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power
2. the person challenging the act must have “standing” to challenge; he must have a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement
3. the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity
4. the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.

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