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The Appeal -
Standing

by David Stanowski
28 June 2014


Introduction:

"Standing, or locus standi, is capacity of a party to bring suit in court. State laws define standing. At the heart of these statutes is the requirement that plaintiffs have sustained or will sustain direct injury or harm and that this harm is redressable.

At the Federal level, legal actions cannot be brought simply on the ground that an individual or group is displeased with a government action or law. Federal courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes (see Case or Controversy). Only those with enough direct stake in an action or law have "standing" to challenge it."

Cornell University Law School

Our attorneys have already made very extensive and persuasive arguments, that are part of the court record, to support the Standing of the GOGP as well as Sandy Taylor, Terry Lynn Griffin, Daniel Jerome Arvie, and Janet Lynn. (All of these Plaintiffs were dismissed for lack of Standing.) They will be consolidating and enhancing those arguments for the appeal.

The GOGP demonstrated the injury that it has suffered, and continues to suffer, from fighting to end segregated Public Housing in Galveston. Quite simply, our injury was caused by the fact that we had to delay our original mission, to reform City government, in order to deal with the local Public Housing crisis, at a great cost of time and money.

See ICP v. TDHCA:
The Court pointed specifically to the 
“consequent drain on the organization's resources" as evidence of that injury.

See Delaware Valley Toxics Coalition v. Kurz-Hastings:
... the Delaware Valley Toxics Coalition (DVTC) undertook a computer study to determine if any local companies failed to submit required EPCRA reports. This study required the DVTC to purchase certain items and incur at least 250 hours of staff time. This expenditure of time reduced the availability of staff to perform its primary function; that is, disseminating information to educate and train others. The court found that this constituted injury in fact, fairly traceable to the defendant’s actions (or lack of), and likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.

See Florida State Conference of NAACP v. Browning:
(standing exists where injury consisted of frustration of “actual ability to conduct specific projects during a specific period of time,” not “abstract social interests”).


Our four individual Plaintiffs, listed above, all had a personal stake in ending the practice of building segregated Public Housing in impoverished neighborhoods, because when they need Public Housing, in the future, they want it to be in high-opportunity neighborhoods, which is their right under the Fair Housing Act. The GHA plan to rebuild it in low-opportunity neighborhoods
creates the very high probability that it will cause an injury to each of them.

Clearly, their injuries have not yet occurred, but by building in highly impoverished and segregated neighborhoods, their injuries are foreseeable, and a very simple remedy is available to prevent those injuries; a court order directing them to be built in high-opportunity neighborhoods, as defined and identified by Dr. McClure.

If highly-probable future injuries do not confer standing on plaintiffs, then the function of injunctions in the legal system becomes moot. Withholding standing for
highly-probable future injuries forces all prospective plaintiffs to actually experience future injuries before they can seek relief. Shall we build Public Housing projects in totally unacceptable neighborhoods and then force residents to live in them for years before they can seek to properly prove their injuries and seek a remedy?

If the injury is proved at that point, the plaintiffs would have to be moved to a new location in a high-opportunity neighborhood while their former project is abandoned. Hardly an acceptable solution!

Why didn't we have a dozen individual Plaintiffs who live in the City of Galveston? We certainly could have, but the Poverty Industry very effectively intimidates many of our potential Plaintiffs, so they are afraid to ask the court to enforce their rights. 



Background:

When it comes to fair-housing, the Standing issue is even more problematic, since Congress meant for private plaintiffs to play a lead role in enforcing the law, so Standing challenges frustrate enforcement and allow more violations to continue. In this case, if the GOGP does not try to enforce the law who will? Texas Appleseed? TXLIHIS? The Galveston City Council? The GHA? HUD?

But, if the GOGP does not receive Standing, it cannot fulfill the role that Congress intended private plaintiffs to perform!

Fair-housing experts have long recognized that the ONLY way that HUD will end its practice of supporting segregated public housing is through private litigation. Few organizations have the resources and the will to bring these cases, so they must be supported when they are filed. (See generally "Long Overdue: Desegregation Litigation and Next Step To End Discrimination and Segregation in the Public Housing and Section 8 Existing Housing" AND (See generally "Public Housing: Government-Sponsored Segregation")

“[T]he only situation in which HUD is doing anything effectively to affirmatively further fair housing are situations where there has been litigation.”
(See "Living Apart, How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law", Page 25)

"Thus, the Court concluded: Since HUD has no enforcement powers and since the enormity of the task of assuring fair housing makes the role of the Attorney General in the matter minimal, the main generating force must be private suits in which ...the complainants act not only on their own behalf but also "as private attorneys general in vindicating a policy that Congress considered to be of the highest priority."99
(See Page 21 "Standing to Sue in Fair Housing Cases")

Since the intent of Congress was/is to have "private attorneys general" bring fair housing cases to the courts for litigation, why should any case be considered for dismissal, due to Standing challenges, as long as the plaintiffs can present a prima facie case of violations? To do otherwise frustrates the intent of the law.

"The language and structure of the Fair Housing Act indicate a Congressional intention to have Title VIII suits decided on the merits rather than on standing grounds."
(See Page 58 "Standing to Sue in Fair Housing Cases")

Since it is clear that it was the intent of Congress that fair housing cases be decided on the merits and not on Standing, and they saw a need for "private attorney generals" to bring these cases for the public good, why have any Plaintiffs been dismissed in a case with such egregious violations by government defendants?

What does HUD trial attorney Dash T. Douglas say about the criteria being used to decide Standing in these cases? 

"Unwarranted Use of Judicial Restraint, 56 GEO. WASH. L. REV. 1074, 1075 (1988) (“Much of the controversy surrounding the issue [of standing] may be traced to the Supreme Court’s inability to articulate clear standards for the standing inquiry . . . This approach has left the doctrine in a state of ‘intellectual confusion’ leading to what many have found to be unprincipled decision making . . . .”); Gene R. Nichol, Jr., Rethinking Standing, 72 CALIF. L. REV. 68, 68-70 (1984) (“In perhaps no other area of constitutional law has scholarly commentary been so uniformly critical . . . . The Court has so severely manipulated the injury standard that the foundation of standing law is essentially incomprehensible.”); Paul A. LeBel, Standing After Havens Realty: A Critique and an Alternative Framework for Analysis, 1982 DUKE L.J. 1013, 1013 (stating that the injury in fact requirement of standing “has been shown to be a mutable and poorly defined standard”); 4 KENNETH CULP DAVIS, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW TREATISE 24:35, at 342 (2d ed. 1983) (describing standing law as “permeated with sophistry”)."
(See "STANDING ON SHAKY GROUND: STANDING UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT")

To review the GOGP's entire memo on Standing, click on the link below:

What is Standing?


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