Legal Question in Constitutional Law in District of Columbia

Can I sue all the members of the US Senate for the past 4 years,for not passing a balanced budget as required by law and hold them in contemp .The house has passed numerous budgets only to be shot down by the Senate?This is their primary job , balancing the budget,and they have all failed.As a citizen , I am holding them accountable for inattention to duties and failure to complete their job assignment within legal time limits set and would like to SUE ALL THE SENATE MEMBERS !!!!! DO I HAVE A CASE?

Asked on 11/26/12, 1:28 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

No. I won't try to explain the complicated rules about who can sue the government for what, but those rules do not allow claims like the one you describe.

A court cannot tell a senator how to do her job, just as she can't tell a judge how to do his. Such orders would violate the constitutional separation of powers.

A court order directing the Senate as a whole to pass a particular type of law would also violate the political-question doctrine, which says courts should stay out of most disputes about how the other branches operate.

Besides, if all citizens had standing to bring lawsuits like the one you describe, there would be thousands of them pending at any given time. Government officials would spend so much time defending the lawsuits that they could not do their jobs.

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Answered on 11/26/12, 6:08 pm
Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

Let me add to what I wrote yesterday: Your premise that a balanced budget is "required by law" is incorrect. Many states have such requirements, but the federal government does not. A lawsuit to enforce a requirement which does not exist is doomed.

What's more, government employees are generally immune from personal liability for actions they take in their official capacities.

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Answered on 11/27/12, 2:54 pm

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