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Sep 15

A Survey of State Standing Where Federal Standing Fails

Every lawyer knows that in order to sue in federal court, plaintiffs must show that they are not merely raising abstract disputes, but have actually suffered concrete injuries.  As the Supreme Court has long held, that requirement is built into Article III, section 2 of the United States Constitution, which limits the federal judiciary’s power to resolving certain “Cases” and “Controversies.”  See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559-61 (1992).  Without such an injury, the federal courts simply lack constitutional jurisdiction to resolve the case.

In Spokeo v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016), the Supreme Court clarified that plaintiffs don’t necessarily meet this requirement merely by pointing out that a defendant violated the law. Some statutes, the Supreme Court reasoned, establish bare procedural requirements, the violation of which may not lead to an actual injury. Id. at 1550. Armed with this clarification, defendants have successfully moved to dismiss federal cases where plaintiffs’ claims rely solely on statutory violations. Kamal v. J. Crew Grp., Inc., 918 F.3d 102 (3d Cir. 2019) (dismissing claim where plaintiff alleged the defendant violated of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (“FACTA”) by printing more than the last five digits of his credit card on a receipt and no other injury). And just this past term, the Court reaffirmed Spokeo’s continued vitality in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021).

But that leaves state courts, whose jurisdiction is not defined by the U.S. Constitution and its injury-in-fact requirement. While many states still hew closely to federal standards for guidance, other states explicitly distinguish their jurisdiction from Article III constraints, announcing that their jurisdiction is broader. In the years since Spokeo, such distinctions have received and will continue to receive closer examination, as plaintiffs reorient their statute-based claims to jurisdictions with more favorable standards. Indeed, the TransUnion dissent predicted just such a migration—warning that TransUnion’s winning Article III argument may have achieved a ‘pyrrhic victory’ for just this reason. 141 S. Ct. at 2224 n.9 (Thomas, J., dissenting).

We are keeping tabs on this development, tracking states where courts have adjudicated (or refused to adjudicate) suits that do not meet federal standing principles. We tailored our initial focus to states that have considered these issues more frequently as well as our local jurisdictions. We will continue to update and expand our map to provide coverage on this burgeoning issue of the law.

State Standings:    CA        DE        IL        NJ        NY        PA


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