Bench Memos

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Today’s Supreme Court Ruling Against Standing


In a 5-4 ruling today (a vote margin much closer than I expected), the Supreme Court held in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA that a group of plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue an action facially challenging the constitutionality of a provision of federal law that created new procedures for authorizing foreign electronic surveillance. The plaintiffs were attorneys, journalists, and labor, legal, media, and human rights organizations who alleged that their work required them to deal with individuals abroad whose communications they believed would be targeted for surveillance.

Reversing a Second Circuit panel ruling, the Supreme Court majority, in an opinion by Justice Alito, ruled that plaintiffs’ theory of future injury “relies on a highly attenuated chain of possibilities” and was thus too speculative to satisfy the Article III standing requirement. Justice Breyer, joined by the three other liberals, dissented.


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