Allen v. Wright


The IRS undertook a policy that no longer granted tax-exempt status to private schools that could be shown to racially discriminate.  Plaintiffs sued Defendant and other private schools for injunctive relief on the grounds that they had not met the standards required by the IRS to achieve tax-exempt status.  In other words, Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants had not undertaken the necessary anti-discriminatory steps required to achieve tax exempt status.  Plaintiffs argued that they were harmed as a result by their children attending racially desegregated public schools.  They argued that as public schools underwent a period of desegregation orders, private schools did not achieve the required standards and therefore benefited from families seeking segregation, which therefore made it more difficult for public school desegregation to come into effect.  More precisely, white parents would avoid racial integration by sending their children to private schools receiving tax exempt status that continuously discriminated racially.  The Plaintiff did not have children in any of the schools listed as Defendants, nor had they ever applied to any Defendant schools, and the complaint was therefore dismissed “for lack of standing.”  The court of appeals found that standing was irrelevant and heard the matter.  The matter was appealed again and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.


Whether Plaintiffs had standing to bring suit against Defendants.


No, case dismissed.  The question at issue precisely address whether “plaintiff’s complaint fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked.”  The applicable rule, therefore, related to “standing” is that the Plaintiff “must allege personal injury fairly traceable to defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief.”  The right of the citizen to hold government accountable is not sufficient standing to grant relief.  In other words, discrimination in and of itself is not enough to grant injunction unless the Plaintiff herself is denied equal treatment under the law.  This is good policy because the courts should not be made to adjust the law where no injury actually occurs or impacts anyone.  This would grant the judiciary power to adjust the law where there was no demonstrable impact of its ill effect.  This would, in effect, violate the separate of powers and allow the judicial branch to invalidate or alter executive branch actions at the will of the judiciary.

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