Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 12:08 AM

Federal Standing Requirements In NC

For the past decade or so the NC Court of Appeals (COA) has been (much to my satisfaction) citing federal law on standing, with one of the most cited COA cases being Neuse River Found., Inc. v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., 574 S.E.2d 48 (2002), which quoted Justice Scalia's landmark opinion for the Court in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).

But one year ago this week, in its big taxpayer-standing decision in Goldston v. State, the NC Supreme Court distanced itself from the federal standing doctrine, holding that the COA's reliance on Defenders of Wildlife was "misplaced," particularly the federal requirement of an "injury in fact" that is "concrete and particularized." Goldston said:

"We observe that, in finding plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims against the Governor and the General Assembly, the Court of Appeals relied upon federal standing doctrine. Goldston, 173 N.C.App. 416 passim, 618 S.E.2d 785 passim (citing Neuse River Found., Inc. v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., 155 N.C.App. 110, 574 S.E.2d 48 (2002)) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992)).... This reliance was misplaced. While federal standing doctrine can be instructive as to general principles . . . and for comparative analysis, the nuts and bolts of North Carolina standing doctrine are not coincident with federal standing doctrine. Compare Piedmont Canteen Serv., Inc. v. Johnson, 256 N.C. 155, 166, 123 S.E.2d 582, 589 (1962) (“Only those persons may call into question the validity of a statute who have been injuriously affected thereby in their persons, property or constitutional rights.” (emphasis added)), with Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 560, 112 S.Ct. at 2136, 119 L.Ed.2d at 364 (noting that one of the three elements of federal standing is an “ ‘injury in fact’ ” that is “concrete and particularized”).

Interestingly, in today's decision in Meadows v. Iredell County, the COA cited Neuse River and Defenders of Wildlife and in particular the requirement for standing of an "injury in fact" that is "concrete and particularized." The COA did the same thing five months ago in Strates Shows, Inc. v. Amusements of America, Inc. But I wouldn't read these decision as bucking Goldston.

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