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Standing of States and Municipalities

A state and its agencies have standing to challenge the actions of the government at various instances.  For example, a state has standing to challenge the propriety of actions taken by a government official if the state has a direct financial stake in the actions and it shows a fairly traceable causal connection between the injury it claims and the conduct it challenges.  The injury must be fairly traced to the challenged action and must be redressed by a favorable decision.[i]

A state also has standing to challenge the validity of a federal agency regulation that conflicts with state law.  For purposes of standing, impairment of an administrative agency’s interest in the effective discharge of the obligations imposed upon the agency by law is equivalent of the personal stake, injury in fact, or concrete injury that support standing of a private plaintiff.[ii]

Municipalities can also be qualified as aggrieved parties for purposes of standing to sue under the Administrative Procedure Act in proper cases.  However, state statutes cannot confer or control standing to sue in the federal courts.  Likewise, court disallows state suits against the federal government on a parens patriae theory.  A state does not have standing as parens patriae to bring an action against the federal government on behalf of its citizens.  It was observed in Secretary of Labor v. Turnage, 657 F. Supp. 1033, 1035 (D.P.R. 1987), that a state has standing to sue as parens patriae only when sovereign or quasi sovereign interests are involved, and not merely litigating the personal claims of its citizens.

In Bd. of County Comm’rs of Adams v. Colo. Dep’t of Pub. Health & Env’t., 218 P.3d 336 (Colo. 2009), the court observed that a statutory county is not an independent governmental entity and is a political subdivision of the state that is created to carry out the will of the state.  In the absence of an express statutory right, a subordinate state agency lacks standing or any other legal authority to obtain judicial review of an action of a superior state agency.

[i] Kessler v. Blum, 591 F. Supp. 1013 (S.D.N.Y. 1984)

[ii] Washington Utilities & Transp. Com. v. FCC, 513 F.2d 1142 (9th Cir. 1975)

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