Prudential Standing Rules.

Even when Article III constitu- tional standing rules have been satisfied, the Court has held that principles of prudence may counsel the judiciary to refuse to adjudicate some claims.465 The rule is “not meant to be especially demanding,”466 and it is clear that the Court feels free to disregard any of these prudential rules when it sees fit.467 Congress is also free to legislate away prudential restraints and confer standing to the extent permitted by Article III.468 The Court has identified three rules as prudential ones,469 only one of which has been a significant factor in the jurisprudence of standing. The first two rules are that the plaintiff ’s interest, to which she asserts an injury, must come within the “zone of interest” arguably protected by the constitutional provision or statute in question470 and that plaintiffs may not air “generalized grievances” shared by all or a large class of citizens.471 The important rule concerns the ability of a plaintiff to represent the constitutional rights of third parties not before the court.

Footnotes

465
Gladstone Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 99–100 (1979) (“a plaintiff may still lack standing under the prudential principles by which the judiciary seeks to avoid deciding questions of broad social import where no individual rights would be vindicated and to limit access to the federal courts to those litigants best suited to assert a particular claim”). [Back to text]
466
Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band Of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak, 567 U.S. ___, No. 11–246, slip op. at 15 (2010). [Back to text]
467
Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 500–501 (1975); Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 193–194 (1976). [Back to text]
468
“Congress may grant an express right of action to persons who otherwise would be barred by prudential standing rules. Of course, Art. III’s requirement remains: the plaintiff still must allege a distinct and palpable injury to himself, even if it is an injury shared by a large class of other possible litigants.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975). That is, the actual or threatened injury required may exist solely by virtue of “statutes creating legal rights, the invasion of which creates standing, even though no injury would exist without the statute.” Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617 n. 3 (1973); O’Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493 n.2 (1974). Examples include United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669 (1973); Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205 (1972); Gladstone Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91 (1979). See also Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 8 n.4, 11–12 (1976). For a good example of the congressionally created interest and the injury to it, see Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 373–75 (1982) (Fair Housing Act created right to truthful information on availability of housing; black tester’s right injured through false information, but white tester not injured because he received truthful information). It is clear, however, that the Court will impose separation-of-powers restraints on the power of Congress to create interests to which injury would give standing. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 571–78 (1992). Justice Scalia, who wrote the opinion in Defenders of Wildlife, reiterated the separation-of-powers objection to congressional conferral of standing in FEC v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11, 29, 36 (1998) (alleged infringement of President’s “take care” obligation), but this time in dissent; the Court did not advert to this objection in finding that Congress had provided for standing based on denial of information to which the plaintiffs, as voters, were entitled. [Back to text]
469
Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United, 454 U.S. 464, 474–75 (1982); Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984). [Back to text]
470
Ass’n of Data Processing Service Org. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153 (1970); Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 39 n.19 (1976); Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United, 454 U.S. 464, 475 (1982); Clarke v. Securities Industry Ass’n, 479 U.S. 388 (1987). See also Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154 (1997). The Court has indicated that [Back to text]
471
United States v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166, 173, 174–76 (1974); Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group, 438 U.S. 59, 80 (1978); Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751 (1984). In United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669, 687–88 (1973), a congressional conferral case, the Court agreed that the interest asserted was one shared by all, but the Court has disparaged SCRAP, asserting that it “surely went to the very outer limit of the law,” Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 159 (1990). [Back to text]