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
The Defenders claimed that
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
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.