Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc. Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff - Petitioner, Plaut (Petitioner), sued the Defendant Respondent, Spendthrift Farm (Respondent), under § 10 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the Act). The suit was dismissed for not being filed in a timely fashion. Synopsis of Rule of Law. Congress may not require the federal courts to reopen a case after a court has rendered final judgment. Facts. In 1991, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) ruled that actions brought under § 10(b) and Rule 10(b)(5) of the Act must be brought within one year of discovering the facts leading to the violation and within three years of the violation itself. In response, Congress amended the law to allow cases filed before the decision to go forward, if they could have been brought under the previous law. Petitioner had brought suit prior to the decision, but the suit was dismissed in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling. Petitioner attempted to resume prosecution of the dismissed case. Issue. May Congress require Article III courts to reopen cases on which they have passed judgment? Held. No. Appeals court ruling affirmed. • Congress may pass retroactive legislation that affects cases still pending appeal. However, this amendment requires cases to resume prosecution after judgment has been rendered. • A judgment "conclusively resolves the case." The statute in question offends this postulate. Discussion. Justice Antonin Scalia (J. Scalia) argues Congress has violated the separation of the judicial and legislative powers, by requiring courts to set aside final judgments, which the framers of the constitution envisioned as dispositive. Allen v. Wright Brief Fact Summary. Parents of black public school children brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), alleging that insufficient denial of tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools interferes with their children's ability to receive an education in public schools. Synopsis of Rule of Law. Article III standing requires that a plaintiff allege a harm directly traceable to specific action on the part of the defendant. Facts. Parents of black public school children sued the IRS, alleging that by not denying tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools, the IRS was harming their children in two ways. First, the IRS conduct was in fact giving federal financial aid to racially segregated institutions. Second, the conduct encourages the operation and expansion of such schools and this interferes with desegregation of the public schools. Issue. Does the harm alleged by the respondents fulfill the constitutional requirement of standing? Held. No. Reversed and remanded. • Addressing the first allegation, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (J. O'Connor) notes "an asserted right to have the government act in accordance with the law" is insufficient to grant jurisdiction. Extending this line of argument, she says "[a] black person in Hawaii could challenge the grant of a tax exemption to a racially discriminatory school in Maine." Furthermore, the issue of funding the schools does not harm the respondents directly. • The second allegation does present harm, that the respondents' children are being denied an integrated educational experience. However, the IRS's actions are too far attenuated from this harm. There is no evidence that denying tax-exempt status to the private schools in question would result in a more integrated public education system. Dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens), dissenting, postulates that removing taxexempt status from the private schools, will make the schools more expensive to operate, causing them to be less cost competitive or requiring them to change their admissions policies to remain open. Discussion. While the dissent's argument has theoretical soundness - removing taxexempt status will cause an immediate increase in cost - the majority points out that this does not guarantee integration. For example, Private donors could still make up the difference in lost funding. Singleton v. Wulff Brief Fact Summary. Two Missouri physicians sued the state, charging that Missouri's statute prohibiting Medicaid payments for abortions which are not "medically indicated" unconstitutionally interferes with the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Synopsis of Rule of Law. The rule prohibiting third-party standing should not apply when the relationship of the litigant and the one whose rights he asserts is significantly close and where there is some obstacle to the first party bringing a suit on his own. Facts. Two Missouri physicians sued the state, showing that they had provided abortions to Medicaid-eligible patients. The state had denied payment for these services on statutory grounds. The physicians stated that they would continue to perform such procedures and stood to be denied payments in the future. Issue. Do the physicians have standing to bring the suit when the immediately affected are indigent women seeking abortions? Held. Yes. Court of appeals ruling affirmed. • Two standing questions were presented: (i) whether plaintiff sustained injury in fact and (ii) whether they are the proper individuals to assert the constitutional right in question. The first question is easily answered. Here, the physicians have been denied compensation and stand to be denied further compensation. • As to the second question, the general rule of prohibiting third-party standing only applies if the relationship between the litigant and the party directly affected is such that the litigant does not effectively serve as a proponent of the affected party and if there is some impediment to the affected party bringing suit himself. Here, the litigant was deemed to effectively serve as a proponent. Discussion. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) does not say that there must be an absolute obstacle to the directly affected party bringing suit, only that there is some genuine impediment (e.g., protecting the privacy of her decision to terminate a pregnancy, the imminent mootness of her claim, etc.). Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow Brief Fact Summary. A father, who was an atheist, sued his child's school district for allowing the Pledge of Allegiance (the "Pledge") to be said by the district's students. Synopsis of Rule of Law. "[I]t is improper for the federal courts to entertain a claim by a plaintiff whose standing to sue is founded on family law rights that are in dispute when prosecution of the lawsuit may have an adverse effect on the person, [the child in this case] who is the source of the plaintiff's claimed standing." Facts. The teachers in the Petitioner, Elk Grove Unified School Dist. (the "Petitioner"), lead the children in their classes in the recitation of the Pledge every morning. The Respondent, Michael A. Newdow (the "Respondent"), is an atheist whose daughter participates in the recitation of the Pledge. The Respondent argued that since the Pledge includes the words "under God" it entailed religious indoctrination of his child in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (the "Constitution"). • The district court concluded the Respondent has standing to sue on behalf of his daughter as "next friend". The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in its first opinion, found that the Respondent "has standing 'as a parent to challenge a practice that interferes with his right to direct the religious education of his daughter.' " On August 5, 2002, the Respondent's child's mother filed a motion for leave to intervene or to dismiss the complaint. The child's mother, Ms. Banning, had "exclusive legal custody" of the child which "include[ed] the sole right to represent [the daughter's] legal interests and make all decision[s] about her education" and welfare. She alleged "her daughter is a Christian who believes in God and has no objection either to reciting or hearing others recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or to its reference to God." The California Superior court entered an order "enjoining [the Respondent] from including his daughter as an unnamed party or suing as her 'next friend.' " The Ninth Circuit addressed the California Superior Court's findings and concluded "that Newdow no longer claimed to represent his daughter, but unanimously concluded that 'the grant of sole legal custody to Banning' did not deprive Newdow, 'as a noncustodial parent, of Article III standing to object to unconstitutional government action affecting his child.' " Issue. Does the Respondent have standing to bring this action? Held. No. The flag is "a symbol of our Nation's indivisibility and commitment to the concept of liberty." The "under God" language was added to the Pledge in 1954. California law requires all students to engage in patriotic activities every morning, and further recognizes that the Pledge satisfies that requirement. Students who object on religious grounds may abstain from participating in the activities. court observed that standing is a prerequisite to any party bringing a The federal case. The court observed "[o]ne of the principal areas in which this Court has customarily declined to intervene is the realm of domestic relations." Further, "[t]he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the States and not to the laws of the United States." The court has went so far as to recognize a "domestic relations exception … divest[ing] federal courts of power to issue divorce, alimony, and child custody decrees." Additionally, "that it might be appropriate for the federal courts to decline to hear a case involving 'elements of the domestic relationship,' [ ] even when divorce, alimony, or child custody is not strictly at issue[.]" Based on the February 6, 2002 custody order, the Supreme Court determined "that the two parents should " 'consult with one another on substantial decisions relating to' " the child's " 'psychological and educational needs.' " However, additionally, the order authorized Banning to " 'exercise legal control' " if the parents could not reach " 'mutual agreement.' " Meaning, she was given the tiebreaking vote. • Further, "it is improper for the federal courts to entertain a claim by a plaintiff whose standing to sue is founded on family law rights that are in dispute when prosecution of the lawsuit may have an adverse effect on the person [the child in this matter] who is the source of the plaintiff's claimed standing. When hard questions of domestic relations are sure to affect the outcome, the prudent course is for the federal court to stay its hand rather than reach out to resolve a weighty question of federal constitutional law." As such, the Respondent, due to the state of California's finding that he lacks status to bring a "next friend" suit, lacks standing. Concurrence. Judge William Rehnquist ("J. Rehnquist"), Judge Sandra Day O'Connor ("J. O'Connor") and J. Clarence Thomas ("J. Thomas") concur in the judgment, but dissented in part. The dissenting justices object to the majority's "erect[ion] [of] a novel prudential standing principle in order to avoid reaching the merits of the constitutional claim." Discussion. It is very interesting to read the majority's decision alongside the dissenting opinion, to see how the standing doctrine can be construed in different ways. United States v. Richardson Brief Fact Summary. Richardson, the Plaintiff-Respondent (Plaintiff) sued Congress. He alleged that public reporting under the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") Act of 1949 violates Article I, s 9, cl. 7 (the Act) of the United States Constitution (Constitution), the statement and account clause. Synopsis of Rule of Law. Standing is denied to "generalized grievances." Facts. Plaintiff sued Congress, hoping to compel release of detailed funding records of CIA funding. Plaintiff based his standing to sue on his status as a United States taxpayer. Issue. Is taxpayer status sufficient to establish standing to bring suit in this case? Held. No. Appeals court ruling reversed and remanded. • The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) applied the two-prong test developed in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968). To establish taxpayer standing, a plaintiff must (a) challenge an enactment under the taxing and spending clause (in Art. I, § 8 of the constitution) and (b) claim the enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations on taxing and spending. • The Supreme Court argued that, as Plaintiff cannot state a specific injury that affects him differently than any other taxpayer, the suit represents a general grievance and falls outside the federal courts' authority to review cases and controversies. Dissent. Justice Potter Stewart (J. Potter) argued that the Flast test is inappropriate, as the Plaintiff is asking for the determination of a duty that has not been honored by the government. Discussion. The majority holds tightly to the narrow exception carved out by Flast in large part to prevent other parties from bringing suits against the government arguing standing only as taxpayers. Flast v. Cohen Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, including Flast (Appellants), brought suit, claiming standing solely as taxpayers, seeking to enjoin expenditure of federal funds on religious schools. Appellants claimed such expenditures violated the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution). Synopsis of Rule of Law. Taxpayer standing is appropriate when the plaintiff challenges an enactment under the taxing and spending clause of the Constitution and the enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations on taxing and spending. Facts. Congress had funded, under Titles I and II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (the Act), writing, arithmetic, and other subjects in religious schools. Appellants brought suit, claiming that these expenditures violated the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The only claim to standing provided was that all Appellants were taxpayers. Issue. Have the Appellants established standing to bring suit in an Article III court? Held. Yes. Reversed and remanded. • The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) states that standing refers to the plaintiff(s) having a "personal stake in the outcome" of the case. In the taxpayer context, the Supreme Court outlines two requirements to show this personal stake. • The first requirement is that the taxpayer must challenge the constitutionality only of exercises under the taxing and spending clause of the Constitution. Expenditures which are incidental to a regulatory statute or other incidental expenditures do not give rise to taxpayer standing. • The second requirement is that the moving party must allege that Congress acted beyond the scope of a particular constitutional provision. It is insufficient to allege spending beyond the powers delegated under Art. I, § 8 of the Constitution. Dissent. Justice John Marshall Harlan (J. Harlan) argues that the two requirements outlined by the majority do not establish that P has a personal stake in the outcome. Discussion. The Supreme Court establishes a two-prong test that allows taxpayer standing without opening the federal courts to generalized grievances. Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Inc., et al. Brief Fact Summary. The Respondents, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Inc. (Respondent), brought suit as taxpayers. They alleged that the Department of Health Education and Welfare grant of United States property to a religious college violated the Establishment and Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution). Synopsis of Rule of Law. Taxpayer standing is appropriate when the plaintiff challenges an enactment under the taxing and spending clause and the enactment exceeds specific constitutional limitations on taxing and spending. Facts. Under the property clause, Art. IV, § 3, cl. 2 of the Constitution, Congress may dispose of and regulate property belonging to the United States. Under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (the Act), the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare conveyed a 77-acre parcel to the Petitioner, Valley Forge Christian College (Petitioner). Respondent sued on behalf of its 90,000 "taxpayer members," alleging that Congress violated the Establishment Clause with its grant of property. Issue. Does the Respondent have standing as a taxpayer to bring this suit? Held. No. Reversed and remanded. Because Respondents sue on an administrative action authorized under the property clause of the, they fail the first prong of the standing test developed in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968), requiring Congressional action under the taxing and spending clause. Dissent. Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan) sees the rise of standing jurisprudence as a means to sidestep deciding important rights issues by effectively slamming "the courthouse door against plaintiffs who are entitled to full consideration of their claims on the merits." Discussion. Regardless of the dissent's moral and fair play arguments, the majority holding in this case is a straightforward application of the rule developed in Flast v. Cohen, which has yet to be overturned.
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