I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Insane federal court rulings on "standing"

Federal court rulings on standing to sue were perhaps best summarized by Justice Harlan's dissent in Flast v. Cohen:

A litigant, it seems, will have standing if he is "deemed" to have the requisite interest, and "if you . . . have standing, then you can be confident you are" suitably interested. (citation omitted)

The courts frequently strain at a gnat and swallow a camel by strictly following trivial rules of standing while ignoring charges of major violations of the Constitution and the laws.

A webpage titled "Constitutional Limitations on the Judicial Power: Standing, Mootness, Ripeness, and Political Questions Doctrines", part of a series called "Exploring Constitutional Conflicts" published by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, gives some interesting examples of the Supreme Court's rulings on standing to sue. Here is one example:

. . . in the 1982 case of Valley Forge Christian College v Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Court concluded--in a case involving a donation of federal property to a religious college--that taxpayers lacked standing to challenge an Establishment Clause violation when Congress was exercising its power under the Property Clause rather than the Spending Clause.

It gets worse. Here is another example:
In Warth v. Seldin (1975), the Court threw out a suit brought by persons challenging exclusionary zoning ordinances of a wealthy suburb of Rochester, New York. The Court said the plaintiffs failed to identify a specific project that would have been built but for the allegedly unconstitutional ordinances.

Well, maybe the reason why there were no such specific projects was that the ordinance discouraged the planning of such projects. Duh.

-- and another:
. . . in Allen v Wright (1984), the Court found that plaintiffs challenging tax exempt status for racially discriminatory private schools failed to show that the injuries they alleged were "fairly traceable" to the defendant's (the I.R.S's) illegal action (granting of tax-exempt status).

IMO the following two rulings jointly take the cake:

In City of Los Angeles v Lyons (1983), the Court dismisses a suit for injunctive relief brought by a Los Angeles motorist who had been rendered unconscious by what he alleged was the LAPD's unconstitutional employment of a chokehold as a method of subduing suspects. The Court said that while Lyons undoubtedly had standing to sue for damages, a suit for injunctive relief required him to show there was a real and immediate threat of him being subjected to another chokehold -- something the Court said he could not do.

. . . in U. S. v SCRAP, the Court found that five law students who formed a small environmental group had standing to challenge a decision of the Interstate Commerce Commission allowing a 2.5% increase in rail freight rates. The Court accepted SCRAP's argument that they were likely to be injured if the rate increase went into effect because the increase would disproportionately affect recycled goods -- and if fewer goods were recycled, the group would be more likely to encounter litter on its hikes around the Washington, D. C. area.

LOL. All this stuff reminds me of the comedienne Anna Russell, who amused audiences by telling true stories of Wagner's Ring Cycle operas and adding, ""I'm not making this up, you know!" It was such a trademark expression that she used it as the title of her autobiography.

Federal rules of standing are partly derived from the "cases and controversies" clause of the US Constitution, which says,

Article III, Section 2:
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;-- between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

For starters, the terms "case" and "controversy" are used interchangeably in the above clause. If a lawsuit is based on the Constitution, the laws of the US, treaties, etc., it is called a "case," but if the basis of the lawsuit is that the US is a party, there is a controversy between two or more states, a controversy between a state and citizens of another state, etc., then the lawsuit is called a "controversy." So the terms "cases" and "controversies" do not appear to have any particular meaning at all.

Supposedly the following requirements for standing are based on the cases and controversies clause: (1) the case or controversy must be about an actual situation and not just a hypothetical or moot one; (2) the court must be able to provide a remedy; and (3) the plaintiffs must be "injured in fact."

As for the first requirement, anything can be a "controversy," including strictly hypothetical situations. However, regardless of Article III's requirements, the courts have good reasons for declining to give advisory opinions on hypothetical situations. For one thing, an advisory opinion might discourage people from doing things that the courts might on closer examination find to be constitutional or legal. Also, the workloads of the federal courts might greatly increase if they were allowed to make "pre-emptive surgical strikes" against purely imaginary wrongdoings. Finally, people who have not actually committed the imaginary wrong would have to defend themselves at great trouble and expense. Nonetheless, some state courts issue advisory opinions.

Also, the requirement that the court be capable of providing a remedy is reasonable. Courts are not just debating societies. However, IMO a remedy should not be denied just on the grounds that it won't help the plaintiff, if the remedy can help others (this also concerns the "injured in fact" requirement).

One of the biggest reasons given for the "injured in fact" requirement is that plaintiffs who are "injured in fact" are supposedly likely to be more diligent in pursuing lawsuits than are uninjured plaintiffs. This is one of the biggest crocks of baloney to come down the pike in a long time. Look at the Cobb County school board, which took a dive by settling out of court in their evolution-disclaimer textbook case despite having the following things going for them:

(1) The Cobb County school district is not just rich but is filthy rich.

(2) In oral hearings, the appeals court judges strongly indicated that they were leaning towards reversal but then vacated and remanded the decision because of missing evidence.

(3) The evidence that was the basis of the original district-court decision was missing and was not likely to be found.

(4) Despite being richer than Croesus, the school district received free representation from its attorney in the appeals court.

(5) The board received other offers of free legal representation.

(6) The board ended up paying high legal fees anyway -- over $250,00, as I remember -- while losing the case.

(7) The board's appeal was not just in support of the contents of the sticker but was also in defense of the board's prerogative to adopt the sticker.

In contrast to the wimpiness of the Cobb County school board, no plaintiff has ever been more diligent than I was in my lawsuits against the grossly unconstitutional $300 California "smog impact fee," even though I never paid the fee (I avoided the fee because of a technicality). My "injury in fact" was my mental suffering resulting from my having to share this planet with this abominable fee. I filed about a half-dozen lawsuits in the 9th and D.C. federal circuits and made two appeals to the US Supreme Court. My position was that my challenge to the fee belonged in the federal courts despite general rules prohibiting state-tax suits in the federal courts. I was vindicated when a top former California auto-emisssions control official testified in state court that the fee required the approval of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Also, the "injured-in-fact" requirement is not always enforced. For example, environmental laws have "citizen suit" provisions giving citizens standing to sue for enforcement of environmental laws without making any allegations of actual or potential harm to anyone or anything, let alone making allegations of actual or potential harm to themselves, the plaintiffs.

This blog started out to be mainly focused on the evolution and holocaust controversies, but it is turning out to be something of a general law blog as well (and not just about laws and court cases specifically pertaining to the evolution and holocaust controversies).



Anonymous Hector said...

In most of these cases it looks like the courts operated properly. The only one I would give you as being stupid was the one with the law students.

Friday, July 20, 2007 2:41:00 PM  

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