In a much anticipated deicison on Article III, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, No. 13-1339, slip op. (May 16, 2016). Writing for a 6-2 majority, Justice Alito wrote that the mere violation of a statute may not, in and of itself, create Article III standing. Rather, standing requires an injury in fact and invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. The injury must be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and it must be likely that the injury can be redressed by a favorable decision.
Plaintiff alleged that Spokeo, which aggregates and publishes public information about people, published what amounted to a “consumer report” about him in violation of the Federal Credit Reporting Act, and that the information was inaccurate, for example, as to his employment, marital status and finances. The district court failed to find standing. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that invasion of a statutory right alone is sufficient to create standing. Spokeo’s argument to the Supreme Court was that the three-part standing requirement cannot be erased through statute.
The Supreme Court agreed that the three-part test must be satisfied. It held that the Ninth Circuit failed to analyze whether the injury alleged was “concrete.” Although intangible injuries may be concrete, “Congress’s role in identifying and evaluating intangible harms does not mean that a plaintiff automatically satisfies the injury-in-fact requirement whenever a statute grants a person a statutory right…Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation.”
In dissent, Justice Ginsburg, with Justice Sotomayor joining, wrote that while she agreed with much of the majority’s analysis, she believed that Robins had alleged concreteness in that Spokeo’s alleged misinformation caused harm to his employment opportunities. Accordingly, she would have affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment.
Justice Ginsburg’s dissent points out the lingering issue post-Spokeo — how a court is to determine whether concreteness and the other facets of the standing doctrine are met.