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Standing of Third Persons

In general, the law requires that a litigant assert his/her own legal rights and interests, and cannot base his/her claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties.[i]  This is the norm followed by courts even when the plaintiff has alleged injury sufficient to meet the “case or controversy” requirement.[ii]

Standing on behalf of third parties is not allowed even when the very same allegedly illegal act that affects the litigant also affects a third party.  Thus a criminal defendant “lacks third-party standing under the Fourth Amendment to suppress documents illegally seized from” his banker[iii].  However, the law permits such third-party standing when enforcement of a restriction against the litigant prevents a third party from entering into a relationship with the litigant (a contractual relationship), to which relationship the third party has a legal entitlement (a constitutional right).[iv]  In this case a professional fundraiser was given third-party standing to challenge statute limiting its commission to 25% as violation of clients’ First Amendment right to hire him for a higher fee. [v]

Similarly, a restriction upon the fees a lawyer may charge that deprives the lawyer’s prospective client of a due process right to obtain legal representation entitles the party to third-party standing. [vi]

The basic issue regarding standing is whether the constitutional or statutory provision on which the claim rests properly can be understood as granting persons in the plaintiff’s position a right to judicial relief.  In some circumstances, countervailing considerations may outweigh the concerns underlying the usual reluctance to exert judicial power when the plaintiff’s claim to relief rests on the legal rights of third parties.  In such instances, the Court has found, in effect, that the constitutional or statutory provision in question implies a right of action in the plaintiff.

[i] Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 474 (1982)

[ii] Tileston v. Ullman, 318 U.S. 44 (1943)

[iii] United States v. Payner, 447 U.S. 727, 731-732 (1980)

[iv] Secretary of State of Maryland v. Joseph H. Munson Co., 467 U.S. 947, 954-958 (1984)

[v] Id.

[vi] Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, 491 U.S. 617, 623-624 (1989).

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