News & Events

All Rise, Sixth Circuit on Standing

On September 20, 2018, in Durham v. Martin, et al., 2018 WL 4496404 (6th Cir. 2018), the Sixth Circuit reversed the Middle District of Tennessee’s finding that Jeremy Durham lacked standing to pursue a suit against certain Tennessee administrators that denied him benefits following his expulsion as a legislator from the Tennessee General Assembly.

The district court had found that Durham lacked standing because his complaint alleged a denial of benefits caused by his expulsion from the Tennessee General Assembly, not by any act of the administrators whom he sued for denying him those benefits. Thus, the district court seized upon the causation prong of the rule of standing, which requires a plaintiff to show injury in fact, causation and redressability. Id. at *1 (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 103, (1998)).

The Sixth Circuit, however, disagreed and found that “[e]ven if…the legislature’s expulsion was the ultimate reason why Durham lost his benefits, it was still the administrators who denied those benefits.” The Sixth Circuit further opined that, at least on the specific issue of standing, it does not matter that Durham failed to allege that the administrator’s actions were illegal as “there is no reason to think that plaintiffs lack standing to sue lawful actors.” Id. at *3.

In short, the take away from this opinion is that a plaintiff has standing to sue those whom lawfully implement the consequences of other’s actions.

by Hunter Brush