Standing and the Justiciability Doctrine

The Justiciability Doctrine is a concept that students must fully understand in order to analyze issues in Constitutional law classes. The purpose of the Justiciability Doctrine is to encourage the separation of powers in our branches of government. The main question under the Justiciability Doctrine is: “What can the federal court hear?” and the answer to this question is not explicitly stated in the Constitution but has been created by the courts.

Article III, Section 2 states that “the judicial Power shall extend to all Cases…[and] to controversies.” The Supreme Court has inferred from this that a federal court will only hear “a case or controversy.” Although this inference may be relatively obvious, it does help accomplish the goal of the separation of powers. For example, the federal court will not do things such as give an advisory opinion to a branch of government because it would not arise out of a case or controversy.

The question of standing is: “Who can take a case to court?” To answer this question, the plaintiff must meet three requirements:

1. An injury in fact

  • The plaintiff has suffered or will immediately suffer an injury. In other words, a plaintiff cannot bring a suit because he fears that sometime in the future he may suffer an injury.

2. Causation

  • The injury alleged is connected to the defendant’s conduct.

3. Redressability

  • That the federal court in which the suit is brought is the likely court to redress the injury. This includes a showing that the federal court has proper jurisdiction for the suit.


Dormant Commerce Clause Analysis

A state violates the Dormant Commerce Clause if it “oversteps” its role in regulating interstate commerce. The first step in analyzing a state regulation under the Dormant Commerce Clause is to determine whether the regulation incidentally burdens interstate commerce or affirmatively discriminates against interstate commerce. An affirmative burden on interstate commerce exists if the regulation “on its face” or “in its practical effect” regulates interstate commerce.

An incidental burden violates the Commerce Clause only if the burdens it imposes on interstate trade are “clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.” If an affirmative burden is found, the state has the burden to demonstrate that the statute “serves a legitimate local purpose” and that this purpose could not be well served by any available nondiscriminatory means. An affirmative burden is analyzed under strict scrutiny.

State laws that affirmatively discriminate against out-of-staters are almost always declared unconstitutional. Such a law will be allowed only if it is proven that the law is necessary and the least restrictive means were used to achieve a non-protectionist purpose. The only case to survive strict scrutiny under the Dormant Commerce Clause is Maine v. Taylor, 477 US 131 (1986).

If a law does not discriminate against out-of-staters, the Court balances its burdens on interstate commerce against its benefits.