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Law School Case Brief

SIERRA CLUB v. MORTON - 405 U.S. 727, 92 S. Ct. 1361 (1972)


Whether a party has a sufficient stake in an otherwise justiciable controversy to obtain judicial resolution of that controversy is what has traditionally been referred to as the question of standing to sue. Where the party does not rely on any specific statute authorizing invocation of the judicial process, the question of standing depends upon whether the party has alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy, as to ensure that the dispute sought to be adjudicated will be presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of judicial resolution. Where, however, Congress has authorized public officials to perform certain functions according to law, and has provided by statute for judicial review of those actions under certain circumstances, the inquiry as to standing must begin with a determination of whether the statute in question authorizes review at the behest of the plaintiff.


Petitioner Sierra Club, a membership corporation with "a special interest in the conservation and sound maintenance of the national parks, game refuges, and forests of the country," brought this suit for a declaratory judgment and an injunction to restrain federal officials from approving an extensive skiing development in the Mineral King Valley in the Sequoia National Forest. Sierra Club relies on § 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which accords judicial review to a "person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or who is adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute." On the theory that this was a "public" action involving questions as to the use of natural resources, Sierra Club did not allege that the challenged development would affect the club or its members in their activities or that they used Mineral King, but maintained that the project would adversely change the area's aesthetics and ecology. The District Court granted a preliminary injunction. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the club lacked standing, and had not shown irreparable injury.


Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the Sierra Club lacked standing, and had not shown irreparable injury?




The Court affirmed, holding an injury in fact required more than an injury to a cognizable interest and required the party seeking review be injured himself. Where plaintiff failed to allege development would injure it or its members, plaintiff lacked standing.

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