Brief Fact Summary. Members of the 104th Congress voted “nay” when Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act (Act), which gave the President the authority to cancel certain spending and tax benefit measures after signing them into law. The day after the Act went into effect, the members filed suit against the Executive Branch officials, claiming the Act was unconstitutional.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. To meet the standing requirements of the U.S. Constitution under Article III (actual case or controversy), a plaintiff must allege personal injury that, “but for” the defendant’s actions, would not have occurred and that this injury is likely to be addressed by the relief requested from the Court.
No principle is more fundamental to the judiciary's proper role in our system of government than the constitutional limitation of federal-court jurisdiction to actual cases or controversies.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Do the members of Congress have standing to bring this case under Article III of the Constitution?
Held. Under Article III of the Constitution, the federal courts have jurisdiction over claims before them only if these claims constitute an “actual case or controversy.” This is a mandatory requirement to establish standing before the Court. The standing determination will be addressed before the Court addresses any other issues. First, members of Congress had not been singled out for unfavorable treatment, and their claim that the balance between the Legislative and Executive branches was in jeopardy applied to all members of Congress. Second, the members do not claim that they have been deprived of something to which they personally are entitled, such as their seats in Congress after being elected. Complaining of loss of political power, the Court argued, was not as concrete as loss of a private right. Third, the members did not allege that they voted for a specific bill that was affected by the Act, nor can they claim that the Act will nullify their votes in the future. The membe
rs could still vote on any bill, and could vote to exempt any bill from the Line Item Veto Act if they chose to do so. Thus, the members did not allege a personal violation because of the Act, nor could they show that the Act was the cause in fact or the “but for” cause of their injuries. Further, their injuries were not concrete or viable enough to be heard by the Court, and the Court could not redress their potential injuries.
Dissent. The Congressional members had standing to bring their claim before the Court. The members’ cause was sufficiently concrete because federal courts might have to adjudicate similar cases in other contexts. The personal harm suffered stems from the members’ inability to fulfill their Congressional power. If these issues are not addressed now, there will be a floodgate of litigation in the future when similar cases are brought to the federal courts.
Concurrence. The members had not alleged a personal violation of their rights, but rather a violation of their legislative power as a whole. However, the main reason the Court analyzed these facts as they did was to avoid intrusion on the Executive and Legislative branches of government, even though the majority never mentioned this point.
Discussion. The Court decided that the members lacked standing because they did not vote on a bill affected by the Act and their main argument focused on the impediments to Congressional power as a whole. It is important to note that Congress’ power was not limited by the bill because it could also choose to repeal it. Further, the members did not meet the Article III requirement of claiming an “actual case or controversy.”