Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiffs brought suit requesting an injunction requiring the Secretary of the Interior to reinstate an earlier interpretation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (the ESA). The Secretary claimed that Plaintiffs lacked standing.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
In order to have standing, a plaintiff must have suffered (i) an injury in fact; (ii) there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of; and (iii) it must be likely that this injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.
Such some day intentions--without any description of concrete plans, or indeed even any specification of when the some day will be--do not support a finding of the actual or imminent injury that our cases require.View Full Point of Law
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (the ESA) requires federal agencies to consult with the Secretary of the Interior to ensure that projects that they fund do not threaten endangered species. Regulations promulgated in 1978 construed the consultation requirement as extending to actions taken in foreign nations. In 1986, however, the Department of the Interior issued a regulation limiting the scope of the consultation requirement that reinterpreted the ESA to require consultation only for actions taken in the U.S. or on the high seas. Several organizations filed suits challenging the new regulation as contrary to law.
Do the Plaintiffs have standing to sue?
No, the Plaintiffs do not have standing to sue.
The Plaintiffs have raised genuine issues of fact as to both injury and redressability.
As government programs and policies become more complex and far-reaching, we must be sensitive to the articulation of new rights of action that do not have clear analogs in our common-law tradition. Modern litigation has progressed far from the paradigm of Marbury suing Madison to get his commission. In my view, Congress has the power to define injuries and articulate chains of causation that will give rise to a case or controversy where none existed before, and I do not read the Court’s opinion to suggest a contrary view.
I concur in the judgment because I am not persuaded that Congress intended the consultation requirement in the ESA to apply to activities in foreign countries. I do not, however, agree with the Court’s conclusion that Plaintiffs lack standing because the threatened injury to their interest in protecting the environment and studying endangered species is not “imminent.”
The case and controversy requirement of Article III creates three minimal elements in order to have standing. The plaintiff must have suffered (i) an injury in fact; (ii) there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of; and (iii) it must be likely that this injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.
In this case, the Plaintiffs failed to establish injury in fact or redressability. Because of the limited effect of the ESA, it is too speculative to claim that not enforcing an injunction on the Secretary would result in an injury in fact to any of the Plaintiffs. Likewise, it is too speculative to assume that any redress by the courts would have substantial impact on threatened species outside of the United States.