Thu March 13, 2003 01:30 PM ET
By Greg Frost
BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court's ruling that rejected a legal bid by a group of soldiers and U.S. lawmakers to keep President Bush from invading Iraq without a formal declaration of war by Congress.
A three-judge panel for the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals posted an opinion on its Web site ( http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/) in which it affirmed U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro's decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
"The case before us is a somber and weighty one. We have considered these important concerns carefully, and we have concluded that the circumstances call for judicial restraint," Judge Sandra Lynch wrote in the ruling.
The civil lawsuit, brought by three members of the military, six parents of U.S. troops and members of the U.S. Congress, sought an injunction to stop potential U.S. military action on the grounds that only Congress has the right to declare war.
The suit, which named Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as defendants, said the framers of the U.S. Constitution aimed to deny presidents the imperial war-making powers of European monarchs.
Although Congress passed a resolution in October backing the possible use of U.S. military force against Iraq, the plaintiffs said this was an unconstitutional measure and did not amount to a formal declaration of war.
In his ruling last month, Tauro said a federal court can judge the war policies of political branches of government only when actions taken by Congress and the president are in "resolute" conflict -- a situation that he said did not exist at the time.
The appeals court said it was a question of "ripeness" -- and that it was essentially the wrong time for the judicial branch to intervene.
"The theory of collision between the legislative and executive branches is not suitable for judicial review, because there is not a ripe dispute concerning the President's acts and the requirements of the October Resolution passed by Congress," Lynch said in the appeals court's ruling.
Some 200,000 U.S. and 50,000 British troops are poised to invade Iraq, and Bush has vowed to go to war without United Nations backing if necessary.