Luther v. Borden
48 U.S. 1 (1849)

  • Luther was part of Dorr’s Rebellion, and was attempting to overthrow the government of Rhode Island. He was arrested for trespassing by Borden.
  • Luther challenged his conviction by claiming that the Rhode Island government was unconstitutional because it didn’t grant voting rights to enough people and was therefore not ‘republican’ enough.
    • Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution (aka the Guarantee Clause) tates that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
    • Luther argued that since the government of Rhode Island was unconstitutional, Borden was not acting with proper authority when he made the arrest.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld Luther’s conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that it is Congress that determines which government is the legitimate government of a State. If they treated Rhode Island’s government as the legitimate government, then it was.
    • The Court found that they did not have the authority to rule on the legitimacy of a State government. That was a political question outside the scope of judicial authority.