Definition of standing
standing (plural standings)
- (law) The right of a party to bring a legal action, based on the relationship between that party and the matter to which the action relates.
He may be insulting, a miserable rotter and a fool, but unless he slanders or libels you, or damages your property, you do not have standing to sue him.
In law, standing or locus standi is the term for 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, the current doctrine is that a person cannot bring a suit challenging the constitutionality of a law unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the plaintiff is (or will imminently 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. To have a court declare a law unconstitutional, there must be a valid reason for the lawsuit. The party suing must have something to lose in order to sue unless it has automatic standing by action of law.
The Council of Europe created the first international court before which individuals have automatic locus standi.
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.
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), Nova Scotia Board of Censors v. McNeil, and Minister of Justice v. Borowski. The trilogy was summarized as follows in Canadian Council of Churches v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration):
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).
In British administrative law, the applicant needs to have a sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates. This sufficient interest requirement has been construed liberally by the courts. As Lord Diplock put it:
"[i]t would...be a grave lacuna in our system of public law if a pressure group...or even a single public spirited 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."
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".
There are a number of requirements that a plaintiff must establish 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. Federal courts may exercise power only "in the last resort, and as a necessity".
The American doctrine of standing is assumed as having begun with the case of Frothingham v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447 (1923). But, legal standing truly rests its first prudential origins in Fairchild v. Hughes, (1922) which was authored by Justice Brandeis. In Fairchild, a citizen sued the Secretary of State and the Attorney General to challenge the procedures by which the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Prior to it the doctrine was that all persons had a right to pursue a private prosecution of a public right. Since then the doctrine has been embedded in judicial rules and some statutes.
In 2011, in Bond v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court held a criminal defendant has standing to challenge the federal statute that he or she is charged with violating as being unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment.
- Standing requirements
There are three standing requirements:
- injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury-an invasion of a legally protected interest that 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.
- redressability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury.
- Prudential limitations
Additionally, there are three major prudential (judicially created) standing principles. Congress can override these principles via statute:
- 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 over a law prohibiting certain types of visual material, may sue because the 1st Amendment rights of theirs, and others engaged in similar displays, might be damaged.
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. One example of a statutory exception to the prohibition of third party standing exists in the qui tam provision of the Civil False Claims Act.
- 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.
- Zone of Interests - The party is arguably within the zone of interest protected by the statute or constitutional provision.
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