Members of Congress Challenge Libyan War in Federal Court

Today, I have the honor of representing ten members of the United States House of Representatives in challenging the constitutional basis for the Libyan War — and the underlying claims made by President Obama. These members include Democrats and Republicans from across the political spectrum. They share a belief that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution expressly requires the authorization of Congress before a president can commit the nation to war. The lawsuit will be heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. We filed this afternoon and held a press conference with the members in front of the courthouse. A copy of the complaint (which will be heard by Judge Reggie Walton) is below.

This challenge goes beyond Libya and challenges the claim by the Administration that the President has the inherent authority to order combat operations without the approval or declaration of Congress. The Plaintiffs in this action include the second most longest standing member of Congress, John Conyers, as well as leading members from both parties. The members are Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R., Md); Dan Burton (R., Ind.); Mike Capuano (D., Mass.); Howard Coble (R., N.C.); John Conyers (D., Mich.); John J. Duncan (R., Tenn.); Tim Johnson (R., Ill.); Walter Jones (R., N.C.); Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio); and Ron Paul (R., Tx).

This is an action for injunctive and declaratory relief. In addition to challenging the circumvention of express constitutional language, it will also challenge arguments that no one (including members of Congress) has “standing” to submit this question to judicial review. These members will ask the federal district court for review of the constitutional question and for recognition that the Constitution must allow for judicial review of claims of undeclared wars under Article I.

I am being assisted in this case by a team including Jodie Cheng, David Fox, Kyle Noonan, Eric Sidler, and Geoff Turley (no relation to Professor Turley).

We are deeply honored to represent these courageous members of Congress in their defense of important constitutional limitations on executive power. While there are many uncertain questions under the Constitution, this is not one of them. The Framers spoke repeatedly and forcibly of their desire to bar presidents from committing the nation to war without congressional authorization and inserted an express limitation into Article I. The last few years have vividly demonstrated the dangers that the Framers sought to avoid in dividing the war powers between the Executive and Legislative branches. Despite their sharp ideological differences, these members are bond by deep faith in the Constitution and a sense of responsibility in defending its provisions. We shall their concerns and are eager to advance their claims in the Judicial Branch in this lawsuit.

As in past high-profile cases, I will have to be circumspect in my public comments once the case is filed.

Here is the filed complaint: Libyan Complaint;pdf

Jonathan Turley

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