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Locus Standis in Environment-Related Cases Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2022

The existence of jurisdiction by a court is an essential prerequisite to the operation of the court in any particular matter. However, it is not the only prerequisite. In addition, a party that seeks to use the court has to have a standing to do so. Standing, or locus standi, is a law jargon which means the ability of a party to show to the court that it has enough relations to and injury from the law or action challenged to hold up that party’s involvement in the case. The locus standis doctrine has three requirements which, through ages have proved controversial in tackling environmental cases. This essay explores the phenomenon of locus standis in environment-related cases.

To begin with, the plaintiff must have suffered or is bound to suffer harm, which entails an attack of a legally protected interest that is real and exclusive. A concrete and exclusive injury is one that affects the person bringing suit in a personal way. The harm cannot be speculative or hypothetical. The plaintiff ought to have actually suffered harm or is about to suffer individual harm (Rodgers, 2007). The injury sustained ought to be actual or looming, distinctive and conspicuous, not conceptual. In addition, there must be an underlying correlation between the injury and the conduct complained of, in such a manner that the injury can be traced to the challenged action of the defendant. It should not be a consequence of the independent action of a third party not before the court. The last requirement of locus standi is that, it must be probable, contrary to mere conjecture, that a fair court ruling will remedy the injury (Greve, 2001). If any of the above requirements of standing is missing, the case is dismissed.

Standing to sue has been interwoven more closely than any other question of constitution administrative law, with the emergence of the environment as a prominent political issue. Beginning in the late 1960s through the better part of the 1970s, the judiciary dramatically expanded access to the courts and essentially disconnected standing from the idea that a plaintiff must have suffered some tangible harm. Environmental issues and plaintiffs were the driving force and the main beneficiaries of this development (Smith, 2005). Congress ratified the judicial expansion of standing by authorizing any citizen to sue environmental agencies for failures to perform nondiscretionary statutory duties. Despite these initial developments, the federal courts have, in the last couple of years, decisively rejected the extension of standing to environmental and other public interest plaintiffs. They have firmly reasserted standing barriers that are connected to concrete, tangible harms. While this shit falls short of a full-fledged resurrection of common law jurisprudence, it nonetheless, implies a decisive rejection of the ecological paradigm and its normative political assumptions (Greve, 2001).

Environmentalists believe that all things are interconnected. This results to a virtually boundless view of standing, since everything is affected by everything that happens in the ecosystem. As such, courts may not refuse to entertain complaints simply because the plaintiff is not directly affected and to no greater extent than everyone else. They should grant equal rights for standing to all individuals. The ecological paradigm here tries to leapfrog the ideas that tangible harms are a constitutive element of the legal system. I

In conclusion, the recent years have seen environmental plaintiffs lose their preferred status. This is evident in Lujan v. Wildlife Federation (1990) and in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992). In both cases, the Supreme Court denied standing to environmental litigants. Although the decision was reached on seemingly narrow and technical grounds, both cases imply the death of the ecological paradigm. Both suggest that divorce of judicial review form common law roots and from separation of powers principles may not be irreversible (Pepper, 2003).


Greve, Michale. The demise of environmentalism in American law. New York: American Enterprise, 2001.

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 112 S. Ct.2130, 2154(1992).

Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation (89-640), 497 U.S. 871 (1990)

Pepper, David. Environmentalism: key concepts, London: Routledge, 2003.

Rodgers, William. Handbook on environmental law. St Paul: West Publishers, 2007.

Smith, Mark. Thinking through the environment: a reader. New York: Routledge: London, 2005.

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