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City of Evanston v. Regional Transportation Authority

decided: July 10, 1987.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 86 C 3963, James F. Holderman, Judge.

Bauer, Chief Judge, Wood, Jr., Circuit Judge, and Pell, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Per Curiam

The City of Evanston, its mayor, and two aldermen brought suit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief in order to block the funding, purchase, and use of property at 2424 Oakton Street in Evanston, Illinois, as a bus maintenance facility. The defendants to the suit are the Regional Transportation Authority ("RTA"), the Suburban Bus Division of the RTA (known as "PACE"), the National Steel Service Center, Inc. ("National"), and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration ("UMTA"), an agency of defendant United States Department of Transportation ("DOT"). The property in question was previously owned by National, and used as a manufacturing facility. The RTA received a federal grant from UMTA for the purpose of acquiring the property.

The district court on June 27, 1986, granted the defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to allege the requisite standing to invoke the district court's jurisdiction. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the dismissal was improper.

Because this is an appeal of a granted motion to dismiss, the allegations of fact in the complaint are taken to be true. Doe v. St. Joseph's Hospital, 788 F.2d 411, 414 (7th Cir. 1986); Ellsworth v. City of Racine, 774 F.2d 182, 184 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1047, 106 S. Ct. 1265, 89 L. Ed. 2d 574 (1986). These facts, however, will be discussed only as they are necessary to the discussion of the issues.


The plaintiffs claimed in their complaint that the district court had federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 2201, based on the Urban Mass Transportation Systems Act, 49 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. ("UMT Act") and the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. ("NEPA"). Additionally, in opposition to defendants' motions to dismiss and on appeal, the plaintiffs alleged jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 702.

The district court, addressing only those bases of jurisdiction that appeared on the face of the plaintiffs' complaint, found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit under the UMT Act or NEPA because neither statute created a private right of action. Moreover, the district court ruled that the individual plaintiffs had no standing to sue as taxpayers because the disputed decision was not an exercise of congressional power but was made by the executive branch.

The plaintiffs argue that the allegations of their complaint, if taken as true, establish that the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the use of federal funds to install a facility which they believe is highly detrimental to the environment and health and safety of the city and its citizens.

Article III of the Constitution restricts the power of the federal judiciary to the resolution of "cases" and "controversies." Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 106 S. Ct. 1697, 1703, 90 L. Ed. 2d 48 (1986); Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 454 U.S. 464, 471, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982); Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94-101, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968); see also Northside Sanitary Landfill v. Thomas, 804 F.2d 371, 380-81 (7th Cir. 1986). The concept of a party's standing to bring suit "is a component of the case-or-controversy requirement and, as such, bears on the power of a court to entertain a party's claim." Id. at 380-81; Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 471.

In order for a party to have standing to bring suit in federal court, three requirements must be met: (1) the party must personally have suffered an actual or threatened injury caused by the defendant's allegedly illegal conduct, (2) the injury must be fairly traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct, and (3) the injury must be one that is likely to be redressed through a favorable decision. Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 472. "Neither the Administrative Procedure Act, nor any other congressional enactment, can lower the threshold requirements of standing under Art. III." Id. at 487-88 n.24.

Beyond the constitutional requirements, the federal judiciary has also adhered to a set of prudential principles that bear on the question of standing. Thus, this Court has held that "the plaintiff generally must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. [490,] 499 [95 S. Ct. 2197, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343 (1975)]. In addition, even when the plaintiff has alleged redressable injury sufficient to meet the requirements of Art. III, the Court has refrained from adjudicating "abstract questions of wide public significance" which amount to "generalized grievances," pervasively shared and most appropriately addressed in the representative branches. Id., at 499-500. Finally, the Court has required that the plaintiff's complaint fall within "the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question." Association of Data Processing Service Orgs. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184, 90 S. Ct. 827 (1970).

Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 474-75 ...

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