Skip to main content

Primary tabs

Civil Resource Manual

35. Standing to Sue

The "case or controversy" clause of Article III of the Constitution imposes a minimal constitutional standing requirement on all litigants attempting to bring suit in federal court. In order to invoke the court's jurisdiction, the plaintiff must demonstrate, at an "irreducible minimum," that: (1) he/she has suffered a distinct and palpable injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct; and (3) it is likely to be redressed if the requested relief is granted. See Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472 (1982); Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 99 (1979); Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 37 (1976). In addition to the constitutional requirements of Article III, courts have developed a set of prudential considerations to limit standing in federal court to prevent a plaintiff "from adjudicating 'abstract questions of wide public significance' which amount to 'generalized grievances' pervasively shared and most appropriately addressed in the representative branches." See Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 474-75, quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499-500 (1975). Speculative claims that a proposed governmental action may result in injury to a plaintiff are insufficient to confer standing. See O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 497 (1974). The required injury must be both real and immediate, not conjectural or hypothetical. See Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 109-10 (1969).

[cited in USAM 4-2.130]