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The Judicial Power

One of the fundamental issues in Constitutional Law relates to the power of the three branches of the federal government – an issue known as the “separation of powers.” One of the main limits on the power of the federal courts is that they can only exert their power at the behest of a plaintiff who is properly before the court. The crucial inquiry here, explored in the following case, is whether the plaintiff has “standing” to sue.


422 U.S. 490 (1975)
Mr. Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioners, various organizations and individuals resident in the Rochester, N.Y., metropolitan area, brought this action in the District Court for the Western District of New York against the town of Penfield, an incorporated municipality adjacent to Rochester, and against members of Penfield’s Zoning, Planning and Town Boards. Petitioners claimed that the town’s zoning ordinance. . .effectively excluded persons of low and moderate income from living in the town, in contravention of petitioners’ First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. . . . The District Court dismissed the complaint. . . The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, holding that none of the plaintiffs, and neither Housing Council nor Home Builders Association, had standing to prosecute the action. . . . [W]e affirm.

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