The Endangered species act divided powers and responsibilities to protect wildlife between the Secretary of the Interior and Commerce. The two issued joint rules stating that each agency in the federal government who undertakes an action must seek guidance or consult with the relevant secretary as to whether the action could harm endangered species. The jointly issued rules initially had an international application for all rules that apply internationally or within the U.S. The two Secretaries later retracted the rule to only apply to actions within the U.S. The defendant organization filed suit seeking a “declaratory judgment” which clarified that the joint rule applied to international actions. The district court dismissed for lack of standing, while the court appeals disagreed and reversed and remanded. After remand, the district court ruled in favor of the Defendants and ordered the Secretaries to reissue the rule with an international application. The Plaintiff appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
Where a party is not the object of nor affected by the federal regulation, what must it show to have standing? Did Defenders Wildlife have standing to bring suit in the instant case?
No. Defendants, in order to demonstrate “federal standing” must show “a concrete and particularized, actual or imminent invasion of a legally-protected interest.” Furthermore, where the party is not the object of the federal action being taken, they have to show causation that the action will or has created an injury with “redressable injury.”
Defendants clearly established that animals abroad would be impacted by the rule. However, they did not demonstrate through any fact that they, themselves would be directly impacted by the Secretary’s rule. The notion that all members of the organization are part of a unified ecosystem is not sufficient, nor is the relationship direct enough to demonstrate the impact and relationship required for standing. The interest claimed by the Plaintiff must be an individual one. Here, the interest claimed is a public one. The chief executive is tasked with tending to public interest. For the courts to grant the individual suit for their perceived violation of a public interest would shift power from the executive to the courts.