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Substantive Standing, Civil Recourse, and Corrective Justice

31 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2012 Last revised: 9 Aug 2012

Benjamin C. Zipursky

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: July 26, 2012


Substantive standing and relational wrongs are the core legal concepts with which civil recourse theory was commenced fourteen years ago. A plaintiff has substantive standing to bring a tort claim if the wrong committed by the tortfeasor was wrongful in the relevant respects in relation to the plaintiff: if the defendant defrauded the plaintiff (for a fraud claim), breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiff (for a negligence claim), trespassed upon her land (for a trespass claim), and so on. After tracing the development of civil recourse theory and its analytical roots in the ideas of substantive standing and relational wrongs, this article turns to: (A) criticizing corrective justice theory and distinguishing civil recourse theory from corrective justice theory; (B) criticizing retributive or vengeance-based theories of tort law and distinguishing civil recourse theory from such theories; (C) explaining the distinctive moral ideas at the core of civil recourse theory. The article develops the view – extant in positive morality and elaborated by reference to work by contemporary moral philosophers -- that a person who has been morally wronged has a moral right to demand an ameliorative response of the wrongdoer, and depicts this idea as the backward-looking mirror image of a moral right to self-defense. In empowering tort victims with a right of action against tortfeasors, the state is giving legal embodiment to this moral principle. It is recognizing, in a victim of a legal wrong, a right to demand ameliorative conduct of the one who legally wronged him or her. The article concludes by observing that there is a familiar moral notion of standing to demand a response to having been wronged that parallels the legal notions of substantive standing pervasive in the law of torts.

Keywords: Accountability, Civil Recourse, Corrective Justice, Darwall, Duty, Gardner, Recourse, Redress, Relational Duties, Responsibility, Ripstein, Rights, Self-Defense, Torts, Tort Law, Vengeance, Weinrib, Wrongs

Suggested Citation

Zipursky, Benjamin C., Substantive Standing, Civil Recourse, and Corrective Justice (July 26, 2012). Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 299, 2011; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2117957. Available at SSRN:

Benjamin C. Zipursky (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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