John DiManno

Document Type



In the 2007 Term, the United States Supreme Court reinforced its narrow formulation of standing in public interest cases in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. The case was yet another in a long line of Supreme Court cases that have denied public interest litigation on standing grounds in cases where a litigant—as taxpayer and/or citizen—seeks to vindicate the public interest by challenging an alleged government illegality. As a consequence, the restrictive standing model in federal courts creates a number of circumstances in which a potential constitutional violation by the government may go unchallenged. Alternatively, many state courts have developed and successfully employed alternative standing models that allow citizens or taxpayers to sue on behalf of the public interest in cases involving issues of great constitutional importance. These models—more liberal and discretionary than the federal model—demonstrate the state courts’ commitment to ensuring that constitutional limitations on governmental power are judicially enforced. This Note will compare the federal standing model with the alternative public interest standing models developed in a group of select states, providing the first case study to focus on the extent to which states exercise approaches to the standing doctrine that diverge from the federal model. This Note concludes that public interest standing models, though most likely unfit for federal courts, are appropriate in state courts, given the significant differences in constitutional background, governance structures, and historical common law developments between federal and state judicial systems.