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Zoya's Standing Problem, or, When Should the Constitution Follow the Flag?


Jeffrey Kahn


Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law

April 15, 2009

Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, pp. 673-725, March 2010
SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 46

Abstract:     
Some federal courts have devised a new test of prudential standing that they use to dismiss suits filed by foreign plaintiffs alleging unlawful conduct by American officials abroad, even when these cases involve matters that may have nothing to do with foreign affairs, national security, or terrorism. Rather than decide the case on its merits or dismiss it on any number of legitimate grounds, the complaint is dismissed because the plaintiff lacks a “prior substantial connection” to the United States.

I identify and critique this strange but proliferating test of standing. First, it is inconsistent with any theoretical view of the Constitution’s extraterritorial application, including the functional one recently advanced in Boumediene v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark habeas corpus decision. Second, it advances none of the policy interests that prudential standing was created to promote. The test has been wrenched from its origins as an approach to decide the merits of a constitutional question; it is now used to decide jurisdiction. This impedes the development of an important area of case law while abdicating the judicial role in defining the limits of state power.

The Article begins with an in-depth case study (based on interviews and primary sources) of a takings claim that would have been unexceptional but for its foreign location and rather shocking allegations against the United States. I repeatedly reference this case while examining the theoretical and practical inconsistencies of dismissing “Zoya’s case” not because the courts found fault with her claim, but because she lacked a prior substantial connection to the United States.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure, Standing

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Date posted: April 16, 2009 ; Last revised: February 18, 2010

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Jeffrey, Zoya's Standing Problem, or, When Should the Constitution Follow the Flag? (April 15, 2009). Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, pp. 673-725, March 2010; SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 46. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1383651

Contact Information

Jeffrey Kahn (Contact Author)
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States
(214) 768-2792 (Phone)
(214) 768-4330 (Fax)
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