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Constitutional Law II
Valparaiso University School of Law
Levinson, Rosalie Berger


Article III, Sec. 2: Defines power of federal judiciary as that of deciding “cases” and “controversies”

Judiciability Limitations:
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.

Standing Requirements:

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 f

ate, 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 π had 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)
“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