Understanding Standing

Vanderbilt Law Review En Banc, Forthcoming

University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 142

12 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2015 Last revised: 4 Dec 2015

See all articles by F. Andrew Hessick

F. Andrew Hessick

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: November 25, 2015

Abstract

Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, which is before the Supreme Court this term, poses a fundamental question of Article III standing: Does a person have standing to sue to seek redress for the violation of a substantive statutory right, even if he did not suffer any factual harm from the violation of that right?

Standing is one of the doctrines that define the power of the federal judiciary. Federal courts cannot hear all disputes. Instead, Article III authorizes them to resolve only “cases” and “controversies.” The Supreme Court has interpreted those terms to authorize federal courts to resolve only those disputes that were “traditionally amenable to, and resolved by, the judicial process.” This restriction, the Court has said, is critical to maintaining the separation of powers. According to the Court, standing enforces these limits on the judicial power.

Despite standing’s importance to maintaining the federal judiciary’s proper role in the federal government, the Court has been inconsistent on what a plaintiff must show to establish standing. Some cases say that the violation of an individual right is enough; others suggest that a factual harm is required. That inconsistency underlies the standing dispute in Spokeo. If the purpose of Article III standing is to protect the separation of powers by restricting federal courts to resolving only those disputes that courts historically could hear, the answer to that question is clear: the violation of a legal right alone should support Article III standing.

Keywords: standing, Article III, federal courts, supreme court, justiciability

Suggested Citation

Hessick, F. Andrew, Understanding Standing (November 25, 2015). Vanderbilt Law Review En Banc, Forthcoming, University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 142, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2695533

F. Andrew Hessick (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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