Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
Federal judge dismisses filibuster lawsuit
Federal judge dismisses filibuster lawsuit
Photo source or description

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit claiming that Senate filibusters are an unconstitutional denial of majority rule. The lawsuit was brought by a non-profit organization known as Common Cause [advocacy website] as well as four members of the US House of Representatives and individuals who allege they would have benefited from the DREAM Act [JURIST news archive]. Despite acknowledging the filibuster rule as an important and controversial issue, the court ultimately denied further proceedings because of the plaintiffs’ lack of standing and the court’s overall apprehension toward interfering with separation of powers. While the US Constitution does not contain any language regarding the proper length of, or method for, the Senate to debate proposed legislation, it does grant each House the power to determine the rules of its proceedings, something “beyond the jurisdiction of this court,” stated US District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

The Senate filibuster rule has been a long-standing tradition on Capitol Hill, but has not been without its criticism, particularly in the previous few years over alleged misuse and abuse. In May Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the Senate floor called [Huffington Post report] for a change to the rule, referencing bills for which both parties have shown overwhelming support, but are in danger of expiration due to unjustified filibuster delay. Currently, Senate rules dictate that 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill while a simple majority would be required to pass it. The most infamous of filibusters was during debate over the Civil Rights Act of 1957 [JURIST report] in which former Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) spoke [biography] on the Senate floor in protest of the bill for 24 hours and 18 minutes without pause, a record that stands to this day.