Standing is the legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person with something actually at stake in a dispute has standing to bring a lawsuit. In federal court, legal standing is required by Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires existence of a real case or controversy rather than a merely hypothetical dispute.
In cases having political significance, it is common for an evenly divided court to find that a liberal plaintiff has standing, while a conservative plaintiff does not. A particularly infamous example of this was the various court's rationale of rejecting investigations into the clear evidence supplied by multiple groups of rampant voter fraud during the 2020 elections.
The Supreme Court has summarized this rule as follows:
|“||To qualify for standing, a claimant must present an injury that is concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent; fairly traceable to the defendant's challenged behavior; and likely to be redressed by a favorable ruling.||”|
Davis v. FEC, 554 U.S. 724, 733 (2008) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)).
- Article III of the Constitution limits the federal judicial power to "Cases" or "Controversies," thereby entailing as an "irreducible minimum" that there be (1) an injury in fact, (2) a causal relationship between the injury and the challenged conduct, and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. See, e. g., Northeastern Fla. Chapter, Associated Gen. Contractors of America v. Jacksonville, 508 U.S. 656, 663, 124 L. Ed. 2d 586, 113 S. Ct. 2297 (1993); Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982). Supplementing these constitutional requirements, the prudential doctrine of standing has come to encompass "several judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction." See Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556, 104 S. Ct. 3315 (1984); see also Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 97, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968).
United Food & Commer. Workers Union Local 751 v. Brown Group, 517 U.S. 544, 551 (U.S. 1996) (resolving the question of "whether a bar to the union's suit found in the test for so-called associational standing is constitutional and absolute, or prudential and malleable by Congress").
The burden on the plaintiff to show standing is lower at earlier stages in a case:
- At this stage of litigation--summary judgment--the plaintiffs' burden on standing is only to raise an issue of material fact. The Crofts have alleged that their children are enrolled in Texas public schools and are required to observe the moment of silence daily. Perry does not dispute this fact, and while still a party, the school district admitted in its answer that the Crofts' children attended school there. The Crofts' children are definitely present for the moment of silence, and like in Doe, we can assume that they or their parents have been offended--else they would not be challenging the law. That is enough to establish standing at this stage of the suit.
Only one of the petitioners needs to have standing to permit the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the petition for review:
- Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 52, n. 2, 126 S. Ct. 1297, 164 L. Ed. 2d 156 (2006).
Standing presents strong separation of powers problems when the plaintiffs seek to challenge administrative action. Critically, suing the executive branch, the home of most administrative agencies, can result in improper judicial interference in executive functions. The leading precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court on standing are:
- Ass'n of Data Processing Serv. Org., Inc. v. Camp
- Hunt v. Washington State Apple Adver. Comm'n
- Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife
In Establishment Clause cases, plaintiffs challenge religion in public life based on two separate types of standing: (1) taxpayer standing, and (2) non-economic injury, such as alleged offense or feeling of exclusion. See Flast v. Cohen and Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation.
In state courts
Standing requirements to bring suit in state courts are derived from state constitutions and are typically less stringent than federal standing requirements. For example, in Illinois, the circuit courts "have original jurisdiction of all justiciable matters except when the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction relating to redistricting of the General Assembly and to the ability of the Governor to serve or resume office."
- Illinois constitution, art. VI, section 9