Standing (law)

:"For other senses of this word, see Standing (disambiguation).

In the common law, and under many statutes, standing or "locus standi" is the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case. In the United States, for example, a person cannot bring a suit challenging the constitutionality of a law unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the plaintiff is (or will be) harmed by the law. Otherwise, the court will rule that the plaintiff "lacks standing" to bring the suit, and will dismiss the case without considering the merits of the claim of unconstitutionality. In order to sue to have a court declare a law unconstitutional, there must be a valid reason for whoever is suing to be there. The party suing must have something to lose in order to sue unless they have automatic standing by action of law.

United States

In United States law, the Supreme Court of the United States has stated, "In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues". ["Warth v. Seldin", 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975).]

There are a number of requirements that a plaintiff must establish in order to have standing before a federal court. Some are based on the case or controversy requirement of the judicial power of Article Three of the United States Constitution, § 2, cl.1. As stated there, "The Judicial Power shall extend to all Cases . . . [and] to Controversies . . ." The requirement that a plaintiff have standing to sue is a limit on the role of the judiciary and the law of Article III standing is built on the idea of separation of powers. ["Allen v. Wright", 468 U.S. 737, 752 (1984).] Federal courts may exercise power only "in the last resort, and as a necessity". ["Id". at 752.]

Constitutional requirements

There are three constitutional standing requirements:

# Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury - an invasion of a legally protected interest which is concrete and particularized. The injury must be actual or imminent, distinct and palpable, not abstract. This injury could be economic as well as non-economic.
#Causation: There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, so that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent action of some third party who is not before the court. "Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency" (global warming caused by EPA's refusal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions satisfied element of causation for Massachusetts's alleged injury of loss of coastland).
# Redressability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury. ["Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife", 504 U.S. 555 (1992).]

Prudential limitations

Additionally, there are three major prudential (judicially-created) standing principles. Congress can override these principles via statute, but Congress cannot change the three constitutional standing requirements.

# Prohibition of Third Party Standing: A party may only assert his or her own rights and cannot raise the claims of a third party who is not before the court; exceptions exist where the third party has interchangeable economic interests with the injured party, or a person unprotected by a particular law sues to challenge the oversweeping of the law into the rights of others, for example, a party suing that a law prohibiting certain types of visual material may sue because the 1st Amendment rights of others engaged in similar displays might also be damaged as well as those suing. Additionally, third parties who don't have standing may be able to sue under the next-friend doctrine if the third party is an infant, mentally handicapped, or not a party to a contract.
# Prohibition of Generalized Grievances: A plaintiff cannot sue if the injury is widely shared in an undifferentiated way with many people. For example, the general rule is that there is no federal taxpayer standing, as complaints about the spending of federal funds are too remote from the process of acquiring them. Such grievances are ordinarily more appropriately addressed in the representative branches
# Zone of Interest Test: There are in fact two tests used by the United States Supreme Court for the Zone of Interest
## Zone of Injury - The injury is the kind of injury that Congress expected might be addressed under the statute. ["Federal Election Commission v. Akins", 524 U.S. 11 (1998).]
## Zone of Interests - The party is within the zone of interest protected by the statute or constitutional provision. ["Allen v. Wright", 468 U.S. 737 (1984).]

Recent development of the doctrine

In 1984, the Supreme Court reviewed and further outlined the standing requirements in "Allen v. Wright", a major ruling concerning the meaning of the three constitutional standing requirements of injury, causation, and redressability. ["Allen v. Wright", 468 U.S. at 752 (1984).]

In the suit, parents of black public school children alleged that the Internal Revenue Service was not enforcing standards and procedures that would deny tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools. The Court found that the plaintiffs did not have the standing necessary to bring suit. ["Id." at 755.] Although the Court established a significant injury for one of the claims, it found the causation of the injury (the nexus between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries) to be too attenuated. ["Id."] "The injury alleged was not fairly traceable to the Government conduct respondents challenge as unlawful". ["Id." at 757.]

In another major standing case, "Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife", the Supreme Court elaborated on the redressability requirement for standing. ["Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife", 504 U.S. 555 (1992).] The case involved a challenge to a rule promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior interpreting §7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The rule rendered §7 of the ESA applicable only to actions within the United States or on the high seas. The Court found that the plaintiffs did not have the standing necessary to bring suit, because no injury had been established. ["Id." at 562.] The injury claimed by the plaintiffs was that damage would be caused to certain species of animals and that this in turn injures the plaintiffs by the reduced likelihood that the plaintiffs would see the species in the future. The court insisted though that the plaintiffs had to show how damage to the species would produce imminent injury to the plaintiffs. ["Id." at 564.] The Court found that the plaintiffs did not sustain this burden of proof. "The 'injury in fact' test requires more than an injury to a cognizable interest. It requires that the party seeking review be himself among the injured". ["Id." at 563.]

Beyond failing to show injury, the Court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the standing requirement of redressability. ["Id." at 568.] The Court pointed out that the respondents chose to challenge a more generalized level of Government action, "the invalidation of which would affect all overseas projects". ["Id."] This programmatic approach has "obvious difficulties insofar as proof of causation or redressability is concerned". ["Id."]

Taxpayer standing

Taxpayer standing is the concept that any person who pays taxes should have standing to file a lawsuit against the taxing body if that body allocates funds in a way that the taxpayer feels is improper. The United States Supreme Court has held that taxpayer standing is "not" a sufficient basis for standing against the United States government, unless the government has allocated funds in a way that violates a specific prohibition found in the Constitution. (See "Flast v. Cohen", 392 U.S. 83 (1968)). The Court has consistently found that the conduct of the federal government is too far removed from individual taxpayer returns for any injury to the taxpayer to be traced to the use of tax revenues. In "DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno", 547 U.S. 332 (2006), the Court extended this analysis to state governments as well.

However, the Supreme Court has also held that taxpayer standing "is" constitutionally sufficient to sue a municipal government in a federal court. States are also protected against lawsuits by their sovereign immunity. Even where states waive their sovereign immunity, they may nonetheless have their own rules limiting standing against simple taxpayer standing against the state. Furthermore, states have the power to determine what will constitute standing for a litigant to be heard in a state court, and may deny access to the courts premised on taxpayer standing alone.

In the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia, the Supreme Court of Virginia has more-or-less adopted a similar rule. An individual taxpayer generally has standing to challenge an act of a city or county where they live, but does not have general standing to challenge state expenditures.


In Canadian administrative law, whether an individual has standing to bring an application for judicial review, or an appeal from the decision of a tribunal, is governed by the language of the particular statute under which the application or the appeal is brought. Some statutes provide for a narrow right of standing while others provide for a broader right of standing. [For example, under s. 18(1) the "Federal Court Act", an application for review may be made by "anyone directly affected by the matter in respect of which the relief is sought".]

Frequently a litigant wishes to bring a civil action for a declaratory judgment against a public body or official. This is considered an aspect of administrative law, sometimes with a constitutional dimension, as when the litigant seeks to have legislation declared unconstitutional.

Public interest standing

The Supreme Court of Canada developed the concept of public interest standing in three constitutional cases commonly called "the Standing trilogy": "Thorson v. Canada (Attorney General)", ["Thorson v. Canada (Attorney General)", [1975] 1 S.C.R. 138.] "Nova Scotia Board of Censors v. McNeil", ["Nova Scotia Board of Censors v. McNeil", [1976] 2 S.C.R. 265.] and "Minister of Justice v. Borowski". ["Minister of Justice v. Borowski", [1981] 2 S.C.R. 575.] The trilogy was summarized as follows in "Canadian Council of Churches v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration)": ["Canadian Council of Churches v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration)", [1992] 1 S.C.R. 236]

quote|It has been seen that when public interest standing is sought, consideration must be given to three aspects. First, is there a serious issue raised as to the invalidity of legislation in question? Second, has it been established that the plaintiff is directly affected by the legislation or if not does the plaintiff have a genuine interest in its validity? Third, is there another reasonable and effective way to bring the issue before the court? []

Public-interest standing is also available in non-constitutional cases, as the Court found in "Finlay v. Canada (Minister of Finance)". ["Finlay v. Canada (Minister of Finance)", [1986] 2 S.C.R. 607 [] .]

United Kingdom

In British administrative law, the applicant needs to have a sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates [Supreme Court Act 1981 s(31) ] . This sufficient interest requirement has been construed liberally by the courts. As Lord Diplock put it:

" [i] t a grave lacuna in our system of public law if a pressure group...or even a single public spritied taxpayer, were prevented by outdated technical rules of locus standi from bringing the matter to the attention of the court to vindicate the rule of law and get the unlawful conduct stopped." [ Inland Revenue Commissioners Appellants v National Federation of Self-Employed and Small Businesses Ltd. Respondents [1982] A.C. 617 ]


See also

* Injunction
* Merit (legal)

External links

* [ Article on the history of standing in Canada]
* [ standing cross-reference for most of the 50 U.S. states]

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