OCTOBER TERM, 2008
SUMMERS V. EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
SUMMERS et al. v. EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE et al.
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 07–463. Argued October 8, 2008—Decided March 3, 2009
After the U. S. Forest Service approved the Burnt Ridge Project, a salvage sale of timber on 238 acres of fire-damaged federal land, respondent environmentalist organizations filed suit to enjoin the Service from applying its regulations exempting such small sales from the notice, comment, and appeal process it uses for more significant land management decisions, and to challenge other regulations that did not apply to Burnt Ridge. The District Court granted a preliminary injunction against the sale, and the parties then settled their dispute as to Burnt Ridge. Although concluding that the sale was no longer at issue, and despite the Government’s argument that respondents therefore lacked standing to challenge the regulations, the court nevertheless proceeded to adjudicate the merits of their challenges, invalidating several regulations, including the notice and comment and the appeal provisions. Among its rulings, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the determination that the latter regulations, which were applicable to Burnt Ridge, were contrary to law, but held that challenges to other regulations not at issue in that project were not ripe for adjudication.
Held: Respondents lack standing to challenge the regulations still at issue absent a live dispute over a concrete application of those regulations. Pp. 4–12.
(a) In limiting the judicial power to “Cases” and “Controversies,” Article III restricts it to redressing or preventing actual or imminently threatened injury to persons caused by violation of law. See, e.g., Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U. S. 555, 559–560. The standing doctrine reflects this fundamental limitation, requiring that “the plaintiff … ‘alleg[e] such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy’ as to warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction,” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 498–499. Here, respondents can demonstrate standing only if application of the regulations will affect them in such a manner. Pp. 4–5.
(b) As organizations, respondents can assert their members’ standing. Harm to their members’ recreational, or even their mere esthetic, interests in the National Forests will suffice to establish the requisite concrete and particularized injury, see Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U. S. 727, 734–736, but generalized harm to the forest or the environment will not alone suffice. Respondents have identified no application of the invalidated regulations that threatens imminent and concrete harm to their members’ interests. Respondents’ argument that they have standing based on Burnt Ridge fails because, after voluntarily settling the portion of their lawsuit relevant to Burnt Ridge, respondents and their members are no longer under threat of injury from that project. The remaining affidavit submitted in support of standing fails to establish that any member has concrete plans to visit a site where the challenged regulations are being applied in a manner that will harm that member’s concrete interests. Additional affidavits purporting to establish standing were submitted after judgment had already been entered and notice of appeal filed, and are thus untimely. Pp. 5–8.
(c) Respondents’ argument that they have standing because they have suffered procedural injury—i.e., they have been denied the ability to file comments on some Forest Service actions and will continue to be so denied—fails because such a deprivation without some concrete interest affected thereby is insufficient to create Article III standing. See, e.g., Defenders of Wildlife, supra, at 572, n. 7. Pp. 8–9.
(d) The dissent’s objections are addressed and rejected. Pp. 9–12.
490 F. 3d 687, reversed in part and affirmed in part.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined.