Did the Supreme Court in TransUnion v. Ramirez Transform the Article III Standing Injury in Fact Test?: The Circuit Split Over ADA Tester Standing and Broader Theoretical Considerations

Bradford C. Mank - University of Cincinnati College of Law
Vol. 57
December 2023
Page 1131

Some commentators have criticized the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins and especially the Court’s 2021 decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez for limiting Congress’ authority to confer standing by statute. For example, in his article, Injury in Fact Transformed, Professor Cass Sunstein argues that TransUnion is a “radical ruling” that uses the injury in fact standing requirement to limit the authority of Congress to enact only statutes that address harms that have a close relationship to traditional or common law harms. By contrast, Professor Ernst Young argues that the Supreme Court’s injury in fact doctrine is justified in light of the history of equitable practice requiring a “grievance” rather than just a cause of action. The question of how much the TransUnion decision has narrowed Article III standing has resulted in a circuit split regarding when civil rights testers filing suits under the Americans with Disabilities Act have standing. The Tenth Circuit’s 2022 decision in Laufer v. Looper and similar decisions in the Second and Fifth Circuits have read the TransUnion decision to limit but not eliminate the broad tester standing in the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman. By contrast, the First Circuit, in its 2022 decision in Laufer v. Acheson Hotels, LLC, explicitly rejected these decisions in the Tenth, Second and Fifth Circuits to conclude that the TransUnion decision had not overruled the expansive tester standing in Havens Realty. The Eleventh Circuit had previously taken a similar position as the First Circuit but did not explicitly disagree with other circuits. On March 27, 2023, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the First Circuit decision for the 2023-24 term. This is an important issue because a broad reading of the TransUnion decision could limit tester standing and affect many other federal statutes that go beyond traditional common law damages. This article will argue that one’s view of standing issues depends heavily upon whether one favors expansive government regulation as a social good or is a libertarian skeptical of government regulation.

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