Article III, Sec. 2: Defines power of federal judiciary as that of deciding “cases” and “controversies”
1. Prohibits advisory opinions
a. must be actual dispute between adverse litigants (Opinion of the Justices)
b. must be a substantial likelihood that the decision will bring about some change or have some effect (Hayburn’s Case)
c. must not direct federal courts to reopen decided cases, rendering those opinions basically advisory (Plaut v. Spendthrift Farms, see below)
d. Reasons for the prohibition:
i. Separation of powers: courts are given the power to decide cases, not hypothesize on unsubstantiated factual scenarios
ii. Conservation of judicial resources
iii. Better decision-making occurs if there is a concrete factual record
2. Standing (who can bring a lawsuit)
3. Ripeness (when can the suit be brought)
4. Mootness (when can the suit be brought)
5. Political question doctrine (what the suit’s subject matter may include)
Federal courts will not decide cases on constitutional grounds if other grounds for the decision exist.
Plaut v. Spendthrift Farms, Inc.: Legislation that directs the federal courts to reopen cases on which the courts have passed final judgment unconstitutionally violates the separation of powers doctrine because it requires the courts to decide that the law applied to a completed case was different than the courts concluded it was.
– Violates the Art. III principle that federal courts are empowered to “decide” cases.
– Would turn decisions already issued into advisory opinions by saying that final decisions could be ignored.
Standing is the determination of whether a specific person is the proper party to bring a matter to the court for adjudication. It is the issue of whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues.
Constitutionally mandated; Congress cannot suspend
1. Injury. Plaintiff must allege he has suffered or imminently will suffer a direct (not hypothetical or conjectural), personal injury.
a. π illegally put into chokehold by LAPD officers had standing to sue them individually for damages (or the City) but did not have standing to sue City for an injunction absent a sufficient likelihood that he would again be wronged in a similar way. City of L.A. v. Lyons. Introduces theory of bifurcated standing, the idea that π may have standing for damages but not for an injuction.
b. πs challenging the constitutionality of a state voting apportionment scheme did not have standing because they did not live in the district where the violation allegedly occurred. U.S. v. Hays.
c. πs who challenged a Federal Elections Commission ruling that American Israel Political Action Committee was not an election committee had standing based on claim they were denied information that election committees were statutorily required to reveal. FEC v. Akins.
2. Causation. Injury must be fairly traceable to Δ’s conduct such that…
3. Redressibility. …a favorable federal court decision is likely to create a remedy for the injury.
a. π mother who alleged injury for not receiving child support did not have standing to sue for enforcement of a state “dead-beat dad” statute because it was not likely that jailing the father would remedy π’s injury. Linda R. v. Richard D.
b. πs who alleged injury from lack of low-income housing did not have standing to challenge restrictive zoning regulations because it was not likely that absence of regulations would cause contractors to build low-income housing. Warth v. Seldon.
c. Indigent πs alleging injury from unavailability of health care procedures from hospital did not have standing to challenge the IRS’s revenue ruling on the hospital because it was “purely speculative” whether that ruling was responsible for the denial of medical services. Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org.
d. πs opposing construction of nuclear facility had standing to challenge a statute limiting liability for nuclear accidents although no accident had occured because but for the statute, the nuclear plant would not have been built. Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group.
Prudential; Congress may override (Policy reasons underlie these two)
4. Personal right. Party generally may assert only his own rights and cannot raise claims of a 3d party not before the court.
a. Person may sue to protect the rights of a third party when (1) relationship between parties is such that the person suing may advocate effectively for the right (i.e., the interests of the parties sufficiently close) and (2) there are genuine obstacles to the 3d party asserting her rights. Singleton v. Wulff.
b. White person who was party to a restrictive covenant had standing to bring suit alleging discrimination on behalf of blacks who were not (and could not become) parties to the covenant. Barrows v. Jackson.
c. Bartender had standing to challenge law establishing different legal drinking ages for female and male customers on behalf of the male potential customers. Craig v. Boren.
d. Mother of a death-row inmate did not have standing to petition for a stay of execution on behalf of her son who knowingly waived right to appeal. Gilmore v. Utah.
5. Generalized Grievances Prohibited. “Taxpayer Suits.” Generalized grievances are prohibited (those grievances shared with everyone else).
a. The fact that many—even thousands—of other people share your injury does not make it a “generalized grievance.” If the only basis for your standing is that as a citizen/voter the government isn’t complying with the law, or as a taxpayer the government is taxing/spending contrary to the constitution, then you have a generalized grievance and it is prohibited.
b. Congress cannot pass a general override of Article III by simply creating a right for anyone (absent particularized injury) to sue. Federal Election Commission v. Akins. Congress may create a right, the violation of which results in standing for suit.
c. Absent direct injury, taxpayer status does not confer standing on an individual to challenge the constitutionality of federal government actions. U.S. v. Richardson.
d. Taxpayer status confers standing to challenge Congressional authorization of expenditures that violate separation of church and state. Flast v. Cohen.
e. Taxpayer status does not confer standing to challenge the constitutionality of a donation of property authorized under Congress’ “Property Power.” Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., et. al.
Allen v. Wright: Standing requires a plaintiff to allege a personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief. In Allen, the Court refused standing to parents of minority children attending public school districts that are under a duty to desegregate (or are likely to fall under such duty) who wished to challenge IRS regulations for continuing to permit tax-exempt status to private schools that discriminated against racial minorities.
– the asserted right to have the government act in accordance with law is not sufficient, standing alone, to confer federal jurisdiction
o π alleged that their ability to attend integrated public schools was harmed
o π also alleged stigmatic injury that Government is assisting race discrimination by giving the tax exempt status. Why does the court not recognize this as a valid harm? If the basis for the lawsuit is simply “The government is violating the law and that upsets me” is not enough; then everyone in the world could sue and it would bog down the court resources.
– stigmatizing injury accords a basis for standing only to persons who are personally denied treatment by the discriminatory conduct
– no direct link between the actor and the harm: harm was caused by a 3rd party and the πhad no standing.
o The white parents sending their kids to a private school is the result of their own actions (they’re the 3d party)
o “Posner-ian” argument: A favorable to the π ruling would cause the price of private schools would go up, which would then encourage more white parents to send their students to public schools
– Brennen’s Dissent: The children’s denial of an opportunity to receive a desegregated education satisfies the standing requirement
o The π was able to link the benefiting schools to the alleged IRS practice and should have passed the standing test
– Stevens & Blackmun Dissent: Purpose of a standing inquiry is to measure the π’s stake in a case’s outcome, not whether the court has the authority to provide it with the exact remedy it seeks
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife: Congressional statutes cannot confer standing to plaintiffs who suffered no actual or imminent injury in fact. In Lujan, the court held that the Constitution does not authorize Congress to pass legislation creating “citizen suits” that confer standing on citizens who would not otherwise be able to allege an injury in fact.
– Separation of Powers: Congress may not convert the undifferentiated public interest in an Executive officer’s compliance with a law into an individual right to sue. To do so would transfer to the courts the President’s constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
– Burden of Proof. The three standing elements are not mere pleading requirements but are indispensable e
through Congress’s spending provision. Flast involved a transfer of funds under the spending power whereas Valley Forge involved only the transfer of property under the property power.
o Mere transfers of property are insufficient to give standing
– Municipal taxpayers have standing for spending against municipal governments even if it is not under the establishment clause
– State taxpayers = federal taxpayers; standing for taxpayers must be predicated on the establishment clause
– “Standing is not measured by the intensity of a p’s interest or the fervor of his advocacy”
– Brennan Dissent: Court used standing to avoid deciding the case. Because the federal government was giving tax revenues to a church in violation of the establishment clause, the taxpayers were harmed as beneficiaries of the constitutional prohibition on aid to religion
Ripeness is the determination of when a case is appropriate for federal judicial review; usually used in the context of whether a federal court can grant preenforcement review of an issue.
– Absent state prosecution, the existence of a statute does not make a case challenging the statute’s constitutionality ripe for federal court review. Poe v. Ullman.
– A case is “ripe” when it involves legal issues appropriate for the court to decide and the parties would suffer a hardship if the court declined to hear the case. Abbot Laboratories v. Gardner.
– Speculative or hypothetical threats are not sufficient to render an issue ripe.
o Case seeking a declaratory judgment that law requiring federal employees to refrain from certain political activities was not ripe because the activities were only speculative. United Public Workers v. Mitchell.
o Case was not ripe where alien residents sought assurances that they would be allowed to return to the US after taking seasonal jobs in Alaska (prior to statehood) because changes to immigration law were hypothetical. International Longshoremen’s & Warehousemen’s Union Local 37 v. Boyd.
– Ripeness exists where violations of a statute are inevitable.
o Case was ripe where railroads challenged future conveyance of their property to Conrail because operation of the statute against the railroads was inevitable. Regional Rail Reorganization Act Cases.
o Case was ripe where boat owners brought a pre-enforcement challenge to a law barring sewage discharge into lakes because boats would require lengthy refits to their sewage systems in anticipation of the law. Lake Carriers Assoc. v. Macmullan.
Poe v. Ullman: The declaratory judgment of a state court upholding a statute on the books does not make the issue of that statute’s constitutionality ripe for federal court review absent state prosecution (or likelihood thereof). In Poe, patients seeking contraception from their doctor and the doctor seeking to give it challenged a CT statute prohibiting use or distribution of contraceptives.
– In 80 years, only one criminal prosecution occurred. Therefore, prosecution is unlikely.
– Douglas’ Dissent: Majority decision gives πs the choice to violate the law and either wait to be caught to challenge the statute or hope they don’t get caught, and that isn’t fair.
Abbot Laboratories v. Gardner: A case is ripe for federal court resolution when (1) the issues presented are appropriate for a judicial decision (is it a pure legal issue, for which we have a concrete record and do not need further facts) and (2) the parties would face hardship if the court declined to hear the case. In Abbot, drug companies challenged Congressional legislation to print the “established name” of the drugs on their labels in a specific font size and type.
– The huge financial burden for the companies is the “hardship” imposed if the court didn’t review the issue.
– The high costs and impacts that would arise if the court delayed hearing the case outweighed the risks of a premature decision.