Tuesday, April 17, 2007

D.C. Circuit Discusses Standing; Finds Problems with Causation and Redressability

Per Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission, 475 F.3d 337 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 12, 2007):

This is an appeal from an order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Federal Election Commission. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sought judicial review of the Commission's dismissal of CREW's administrative complaint. The issue is whether CREW has standing to challenge the Commission's decision. . . .

After the election, CREW filed this action pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(8)(A), which states that “Any party aggrieved by an order of the Commission dismissing a complaint filed by such party ... may file a petition with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.” CREW's complaint sought a declaration that the Commission's “failure to require reporting and disclosure of the value of the master contact list ... was contrary to law.” The district court, Bates, J., granted summary judgment in favor of the Commission on the ground that CREW lacked standing to litigate its claims. The court reasoned that CREW suffered no injury in fact because the precise dollar value of the list would not be useful either to voters generally or to CREW in particular. See Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Wash. v. FEC, 401 F.Supp.2d 115, 120-22 (D.D.C.2005). Moreover, because CREW's administrative complaint did not seek to discover the precise dollar value of the list, the court found that CREW's “endeavor is tantamount to seeking enforcement of the law.” Id. at 122.

To establish standing, CREW claims to have suffered the requisite injury in fact, see Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992), because it is being deprived of one piece of information about the list not posted on the Commission's website-namely, what the list was worth. . . . CREW claims it is still suffering an injury because if it knew the actual value of the list, it could better inform the public of the relationship between Norquist and the Bush Administration. See Br. for Appellant 17-18. . . . Like the district court, we see other problems with the remaining two prerequisites to standing-causation and redressability, see Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61. . . . Short of a Commission enforcement action in district court, further administrative proceedings will thus boot CREW nothing. . . . CREW must disagree with the Commission's judgment that its resources were better employed on other, more important matters. But we do not know what legal principle CREW thinks the Commission thereby violated, or in terms of standing, how CREW's alleged harm is “fairly traceable” to a Commission determination resting “upon an improper legal ground.” FEC v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11, 25 (1998). . . . CREW's request to the Commission also sought an investigation, a declaration that respondents had violated federal campaign finance laws, and the imposition of “sanctions.” As we have already mentioned, the Commission does not itself have coercive power. And even if it did, CREW never mentioned its desire to have the list precisely valued and never hinted that this is what it had in mind as a “sanction.” It is of no consequence that CREW also requested in its administrative complaint “such further action as may be appropriate.” Lujan specifically demanded a showing of injury that is “concrete and particularized,” not one that is indirectly inferred. 504 U.S. at 560. Given the precedent established in Common Cause v. FEC, 108 F.3d 413 (D.C.Cir.1997) and the lack of any meaningful distinction between that case and this one, we must hold that CREW lacks standing.


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