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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The truth about justiciability

From last week's  argument in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Do you think this is a matter of standing or ripeness? The Sixth Circuit said ripeness.

MR. CARVIN: In all candor, Justice Ginsburg, I can't figure out the difference between standing and ripeness in this context. No question that we are being subject to something. I think the question is whether or not the threat is sufficiently immediate.

You have to admire the honesty. The Sixth Circuit, which analyzed this as a ripeness case (and held that the action was not ripe), similarly acknowledged that the ripeness prong of likelihood of harm overlap with the standing prong of real, immediate, non-speculative injury-in-fact. It always has been difficult to explain the distinction between standing and ripeness (mootness tends to more clearly be its own thing). And that has become worse over the past several years, as SCOTUS has ratched up the injury-in-fact requirement in its standing cases. In a pre-enforcement constitutional challenge, whether a plaintiff has suffered an injury for standing purposes necessarily includes whether the plaintiff faces a likely risk of immediate harm, which long had been the bailiwick of ripeness.

Perhaps the Court will take this as a chance to clarify, although I doubt it. It seems so obvious that the case is justiciable, and the justices all so obviously believe the Ohio law--which prohibits knowingly false statements made in support or opposition to a candidate for office--is unconstitutional. The Court is going to be racing to reverse and send the case back to give SBA its chance to argue the merits in federal court. I doubt the fine details of standing v. ripeness are going to be the central concern.

Update: Alert reader Sam Bray (UCLA) reminds me about footnote 8 in Medimune, Inc. v. Genetech, Inc., where the Court said that standing and ripeness "boil down to the same question."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 26, 2014 at 10:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink

Comments

Standing, ripeness, and mootness are not three different requirements. They are three different ways to fail a single requirement: justiciability. Life would be easier if we phrased all three tests as negatives rather than positives.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Apr 27, 2014 3:57:59 PM

Dead link for the Medimmune case.

Posted by: Edward Still | Apr 27, 2014 5:02:11 PM

I wasn't finding the link dead, but I reset it.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Apr 27, 2014 5:11:34 PM

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