What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: zedlafor
Locus Standi—an acknowledged right or claim—is the Latin legal term for what is commonly referred to as “standing”. In essence, standing determines whether a person has sufficient cause and reason to bring forward a case to sue somebody.
The basic requirements and circumstances for standing were once defined in Ex Parte Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama as follows:
To present a justiciable case or controversy, the individual plaintiff must have standing to sue; to have standing, the individual must allege an injury directly arising from or connected with the wrong alleged. The standing requirement applies whether the plaintiff sues individually or on behalf of a class.
Standing only legitimately exists when the would-be plaintiff can clearly show how he/she is individually affected by the matter at hand. This, of course, is to prevent anybody suing for anything they want, regardless of who is affected by what. But though the standing rule is fairly easy to understand and evaluate, it would seem that this, like so many other elements of proper jurisprudence, is being twisted unrecognizably to suit the whim of the judges. Let’s look at two specific cases.
Barack Obama’s citizenship
Though most of the mainstream media has gone out of its way to ignore the issue (surprised, aren’t we all?), there have been several lawsuits (dismissed by Obama’s spokeswoman as “garbage”) brought forth in recent months to compel Obama to resolve the issue of his allegedly-forged birth certificate.
The most popular case was that of attorney Philip Berg, whose suit (unlike some others) rested on the accusation that Obama was in fact born in Kenya, and that his birth certificate was a forged copy. This case was dismissed by a federal judge, who, after a lengthy and informative discussion of the history and various applications of legal standing, wrote:
Plaintiff’s stake is no greater and his status no more differentiated than that of millions of other voters…. This harm is too vague and its effects too attenuated to confer standing on any and all voters
Since Berg was not impacted with the alleged un-Constitutionality of Obama’s presidential candidacy any more so than the millions of other Americans, the judge dismissed his case entirely. Further opining on Berg’s standing issue, the judge writes about “the fundamental problem that the harm [Berg] alleges does not constitute an injury in fact”.
One is naturally led to question who does have sufficient legal standing to uphold the Constitution and ensure that presidential candidates meet the criteria listed therein. If not “we the people”, then whom?
San Diego Boy Scouts of America
The Ninth Circuit appellate court in California—believed by some to be so far out there that it has become a fourth branch of government— took the exact opposite stand of the previously-mentioned court and gave legal standing to individuals not injuriously affected in any way by the issue in their complaint.
The dragged-out Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America case was recently sent to the California Supreme Court for review and advice prior to their making a decision. The judges’ decision to grant legal standing to these lesbian women suing about the city’s land lease was objected to in the dissent as follows:
Today, our court promulgates an astonishing new rule of law for the nine Western States. Henceforth, a plaintiff who claims to feel offended by the mere thought of associating with people who hold different views has suffered a legally cognizable injury-in-fact. No other circuit has embraced this remarkable innovation, which contradicts nearly three decades of the Supreme Court’s standing jurisprudence. In practical effect, the three-judge panel majority’s unprecedented theory creates a new legal landscape in which almost anyone who is almost offended by almost anything has standing to air his or her displeasure in court.
Nevertheless, a lesbian couple with a son and an agnostic couple with a daughter challenged the leases under the religion clauses of the United States and California Constitutions. The families did not have any of the traditional bases of standing: they did not compete for the leases, try to participate in any Boy Scout activities on the leased land, or even use or try to use the land for their own purposes (although they did use the portions of the parks that the Boy Scouts did not use). Rather, the families based standing on the claim that although they wanted to use the public land and could use it without interference from the Boy Scouts, they nevertheless declined to use it, because they would be offended by the Boy Scouts’ views on sexuality and religion if they did.
The future implications of this type of ruling were likewise explained in the dissent in a footnote:
This case is far more than a harmless certification order. It constitutes a precedential decision on the issue of standing. Even worse, if the Barnes-Wallaces and the Breens lose on the merits before the California Supreme Court, the panel majority’s standing decision will be entirely insulated from further review. Thus, unless the City of San Diego files a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court now, which, of course, it may do, see 28 U.S.C. Â§ 1254, the majority’s standing decision may be unreviewable.
Whatever locus standi once was, it has been warped into something altogether unrecognizable from its previous self. Future judicial admissions of standing will no doubt be riddled with psychological babble, political correctness, and legalistic temper tantrums. In today’s America, nobody and everybody has standing. Clear as mud?