A federal question is not considered substantial if the federal question is:
- Without any foundation or merit;
- Wholly a matter of conjecture;
- Rests upon false assumptions;
- Not debatable and requires no analysis or exposition,
- Explicitly foreclosed by a previous decision of the Supreme Court leaving no room for controversy.
If the Supreme Court considers a particular federal question as insubstantial, then it will remain insubstantial until the Supreme Court instructs or doctrinal developments indicate otherwise. It was observed in Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332 (U.S. 1975), summary disposition of an appeal, either by affirmance or by dismissal for want of a substantial federal question, is a disposition on the merits.