Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife
504 U.S. 555 (1982)

  • The Departments of Interior (DOI) announced that the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1351) did not require other government agencies to consult with the Department of the Interior when their activities destroyed critical habitats for endangered species outside of the US.
  • The Defenders of Wildlife sued for an injunction.
    • DOI argued that the Defenders didn't have standing to sue.
    • The Defenders claimed that they did.
  • The Trial Court found dismissed the case for lack of standing. The Defenders appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and found the Defenders had standing to sue. DOI appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found that the Defenders did not have standing.
    • The US Supreme Court noted that the desire to observe or use an endangered animal, even for purely aesthetic purposes is a cognizable interest for purposes of standing.
    • However, you have to establish through specific facts, not only that listed species were in fact being threatened by funded activities abroad, but also that one or more of the Defenders' members would be directly affected apart from their special interest in conservation.
      • The Defenders had affidavits by two members, one of whom had seen an endangered alligator on a trip to Egypt, and another had seen an endangered elephant in Sri Lanka.
    • The Court rejected the affidavits, saying that they only showed past exposure, and that Defenders had not demonstrated that the members would possibly be unable to see alligators and elephants in the future.
      • You must establish the likelihood of imminent injury in order to have standing. The Court interpreted that to mean that the tourists would have to have concrete plans to visit a site where the US was about to build a project that killed endangered animals.
    • In general, the Defenders made three arguments. They claimed that there was an ecosystem nexus (anyone who uses part of the contiguous ecosystem has standings), an animal nexus (anyone on Earth who has an interest in studying or seeing endangered species has standing), and a vocational nexus (anyone with a professional interest in endangered species has standing).
      • The Court found that persons 'who use the ecosystem' are not perceptibly affected by the action in question.
      • The Court dismissed the other two arguments as being silly, saying, "it goes beyond the limit, and into pure speculation and fantasy, to say that anyone who observes or works with an endangered species, anywhere in the world, is appreciably harmed by a single project affecting some portion of that species with which he has no specific connection."
    • Justice Scalia is generally against citizen suits, because it basically makes the private citizen into a little Attorney General. That violates the powers of the Executive Branch under the Constitution.