Warth v. Seldin Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Plaintiffs claimed that a local zoning ordinance excluded persons of low and moderate income from living in a certain community. Defendants responded by claiming that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit.

Facts of the case

Question

Have the Plaintiff’s established that a case or controversy exists between themselves and the Defendants within the meaning of Article III of the United States Constitution (Constitution), in order to have standing?

Answer

Yes. Judgment affirmed.
In order for a federal court to have jurisdiction, the plaintiff himself must have suffered some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively legal action. Additionally, standing will generally not be found when:
a generalized grievance is shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens
a plaintiff attempts to claim relief on the legal rights of third parties.
Congress may create standing for individuals through statutes who would otherwise lack standing, so long as the plaintiff alleges a distinct and palpable injury to himself.
In the present case, the Plaintiffs claimed the enforcement of zoning ordinances against third parties had the effect of precluding the construction of housing suitable to their needs. For standing, a plaintiff must allege that the challenged practices affect him specifically and that court intervention would personally benefit the plaintiff.
In order for an organization to have standing, it must claim that all or any one of its members are suffering immediate or threatened injury as a result of the challenged action. Plaintiffs in this case fail to do so.

Conclusion

The court affirmed, holding that the facts alleged failed to support an actionable causal relationship between respondents’ zoning practices and petitioners’ asserted injury. In contrast to cases where plaintiffs challenged zoning restrictions applied to particular projects that would supply housing within their means, and of which they were intended residents, in this case petitioners were unable to demonstrate that unless relief from the allegedly illegal actions was forthcoming, their immediate and personal interests would be harmed. Thus, the court held that petitioners failed to meet threshold standing requirements and affirmed the judgment below.

  • Case Brief: 1975
  • Petitioner: Warth
  • Respondent: Seldin
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 422 US 490 (1975)
Argued: Mar 17, 1975
Decided: Jun 25, 1975