William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal

Article Title

The Nature of Standing


Most academic studies of standing have focused on restrictions on federal court jurisdiction drawn from Article III of U.S. Constitution and related doctrinal schemes developed by state courts. These rules are constructed atop a few words of the Constitution: "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity," arising under various circumstances. The Supreme Court has interpreted these words to require federal courts to assess whether a plaintiff has suffered an injury in fact that is both fairly traceable to the actions of the defendant and redressable by a favorable ruling before proceeding to the merits of a case.

States, however, are not limited by Article III's grant of the federal judicial power, and many have developed versions of standing that differ from federal doctrine. Although every state has a standing doctrine of some sort, state courts often impose looser requirements for standing than do the federal courts. And even in federal courts, there are fault lines in various areas of the doctrine. Although Article III justiciability doctrines are described as jurisdictional in nature, numerous exceptions challenge the usual doctrinal model.

We propose to understand these doctrinal differences and the related jurisdictional controversies through a far broader conception of standing, expressed in basic institutional mechanics and context-specific cooperative goals. Rather than focusing minutely on standing as an idiosyncratic jurisdictional and prudential doctrine, we aim to analyze its place in the larger world of agenda-control rules-- that is, rules that institutions such as courts employ to regulate how they decide whether to decide. From this taxonomic and institutional calculus, the federal standing rules follow as a possible application, their debatable content a consequence of disagreements over federal judicial mechanics and objectives. More importantly, though, this model enables us to uncover and analyze some coherent foundational principles in the diversity of standing and standing-like doctrines that are often ignored by scholars and practitioners.