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Copyright (c) 2009 University of Memphis Law Review
University of Memphis Law Review

Article: The Case for Prudential Standing

Spring, 2009

University of Memphis Law Review

39 U. Mem. L. Rev. 727


Joshua L. Sohn*



Standing is an immensely powerful judicial doctrine that sharply limits the classes of individuals who may bring a lawsuit in federal court. As currently understood, standing erects a variety of constitutional and non-constitutional, "prudential" barriers to any would-be plaintiff. On the constitutional side, a plaintiff must show that he has suffered an injury-in-fact that was caused by the defendant's action and that can be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. 1 On the prudential side, the plaintiff must show that his or her injury is within the zone of interests that the statute or con stitutional provision at issue is meant to protect. 2 Prudential standing also prohibits plaintiffs from asserting generalized grievances or seeking to vindicate a third party's legal rights. 3

This Article contends that the line between constitutional and prudential standing should be erased. Instead, all standing requirements should be deemed prudential. There are several reasons for this. First, the text of the U.S. Constitution and the history of its drafting provide no support for the allegedly constitutional standing requirements. Second, when the Supreme Court has sought to justify these "constitutional" standing requirements over the years, it has repeatedly relied on prudential justifications. For instance, the Court has noted how the "constitutional" standing requirements improve judicial decision-making, conserve judicial resources, and reduce conflict between the judiciary and the political branches. 4 These are all worthy goals, but they are prudential goals, related to wise and efficient judicial administration. They are ...
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