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Standing as Channeling in the Administrative Age

Drury D. Stevenson

South Texas College of Law

Sonny Eckhart

South Texas College of Law Houston

April 5, 2012

Boston College Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 4, 2012

For several decades, courts have approached citizen suits with judicially created rules for standing. These requirements for standing have been vague and unworkable, and often serve merely as a screening mechanism for docket management. The use of standing rules to screen cases, in turn, yields inconsistent decisions and tribunal splits along partisan lines, suggesting that courts are using these rules in citizen suits as a proxy for the merits. Numerous commentators, and some Supreme Court Justices, have therefore suggested that Congress could, or should, provide legislative guidelines for standing.

This Article takes the suggestion a step further, and argues that Congress has implicitly delegated the matter to the administrative agencies with primary enforcement authority over the subject matter. Courts regularly allow agencies to fill gaps in their respective statutes, meaning congressional silence on a point often constitutes discretionary leeway for the agency charged with implementation of the statute. Agencies already have explicit statutory authority to preempt citizen suits or define violations for which parties may sue. The existing statutory framework therefore suggests agencies could promulgate rules for the injury-in-fact and causation prongs of standing in citizen suits. Moreover, agencies have an advantage over courts in terms of expertise about the harms involved and which suits best represent the public interest. On the more delicate question of citizen suits against agencies themselves, agencies could default to the “special solicitude for states” rule illustrated in Massachusetts v. EPA. Finally, this Article explains how standing can function as a beneficial channeling tool rather than an awkward screening device, by allowing agencies to align citizen suits more closely with the larger public interest and established policy goals.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

Keywords: Administrative law, implied delegation, standing, public interest litigation, channeling, citizen suits

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Date posted: April 9, 2012 ; Last revised: April 27, 2012

Suggested Citation

Stevenson, Drury D. and Eckhart, Sonny, Standing as Channeling in the Administrative Age (April 5, 2012). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 4, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2035108 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2035108

Contact Information

Drury D. Stevenson (Contact Author)
South Texas College of Law ( email )
1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States
713-646-1897 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.stcl.edu
Sonny E. Eckhart
South Texas College of Law Houston ( email )
1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States
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