President Barack Obama can’t be sued by 10 federal lawmakers who accused him of violating the War Powers Act by ordering the attack on Libyan forces without Congress’s approval, a judge said.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled today that members of the House of Representatives failed to demonstrate that they had the right to sue executive branch officials, either as members of Congress or as taxpayers. Walton said he was “powerless to depart” from previous rulings by the Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington that limit such lawsuits.
“While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the president and the secretary of defense, in light of shrinking judicial budgets, scarce judicial resources, and a heavy caseload, the court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the re-litigation of settled questions of law,” Walton said.
Walton noted that the lead plaintiff in the case, Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, was also the lead plaintiff in a case that was rejected for the same reason nine years ago.
The House members, consisting of Democrats and Republicans, filed their lawsuit in June, claiming military operations in Libya were illegal because Congress hadn’t authorized funding or approved a declaration of war.
Muammar Qaddafi, who ruled Libya for four decades, was killed in his hometown of Sirte today, two months after a NATO-backed uprising forced him from power.
“Judge Reggie Walton has refused to address the merits of the constitutional claim of our case,” Kucinich and Representative Walter Jones said in an e-mailed statement. “This lawsuit is not just about checking executive power, but also about securing the right of members of Congress to defend the constitutionally required balance of power in court.”
The two said they would consult with the other plaintiffs before deciding whether to appeal, according to the statement.
The case is Kucinich v. Obama, 11-01096, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).