December 12, 1995
In an order filed November 1, 1995, this court found that a sua sponte application of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) might be appropriate, and stated that the plaintiff "may, before November 20, 1995, submit a supplemental memorandum of law addressing the applicability of the standing and political question doctrines to his first group of claims." The plaintiff has now submitted that supplemental memorandum of law, and so I will now consider whether the plaintiff's first group of claims should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6).
I will not summarize the complaint at the same length that I did in the November 1 memorandum. Readers wishing a detailed account of the complaint are referred to that document. See Bowman v. United States, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16286, No. 95-5863 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 1 1995). The complaint's first group of claims all derive from Mr. Bowman's assertion that Ohio's admission to the Union in 1803 was performed illegally.
The complaint asserts that this flaw rendered ineffective the admission of all subsequent states into the Union, and rendered invalid most of the acts of the present (and, in the complaint's view, purported) federal government -- including, inter alia, its imposition of an income tax.
This court finds that it cannot decide the question of the legality of the process by which Ohio was admitted to the Union, because doing so would entail an impermissible encroachment upon the authority of the political branches of the Government.
The foundations of the doctrine that bars such encroachment, the political question doctrine, were laid by Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 2 L. Ed. 60 (1803) -- a case that was decided, coincidentally, in 1803, the year of Ohio's contested admission to the Union. In that case, the Chief Justice observed that:
The intimate political relation, subsisting between the president of the United States and the heads of departments, necessarily renders any legal investigation of the acts of one of those high officers particularly irksome, as well as delicate; and excites some hesitation with respect to the propriety of entering into such investigation. Impressions are often received without much reflection or examination, and it is not wonderful, that in such a case as this, the assertion, by an individual, of his legal claims in a court of justice, to which claims it is the duty of that court to attend, should at first view be considered by some, as an attempt to intrude into the cabinet, and to intermeddle with the prerogatives of the executive.