Mark David Richards
Council Period 12
Council Period 13
Council Period 14
Government and People
Anacostia Waterfront Corporation
Boards and Com
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Management Officer
Elections and Ethics
Housing and Community Dev.
Capital Revitalization Corp.
Planning and Econ. Dev.
Planning, Office of
Public Service Commission
Regional Mobility Panel
Sports and Entertainment Com.
University of DC
Water and Sewer Administration
Youth Rehabilitation Services
Issues in DC Politics
DC General, PBC
Public Benefit Corporation
Tax Rev Comm
Term limits repeal
Voting rights, statehood
Williams’s Fundraising Scandals
Cardozo Shaw Neigh.Assoc.
Committee of 100
Fed of Citizens Assocs
League of Women Voters
What Is DCWatch?
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
LINDA W. CROPP, Chairman, et al., Plaintiffs vs. ANTHONY A. WILLIAMS, Mayor,
Civil Action No. 03ca4569
Judge John M. Campbell
Calendar # 12
I asked the parties to brief the question whether the
plaintiffs have standing to bring this lawsuit. After considering the
briefs, and having heard argument on June 16, 2003, 1 am issuing the
following order. In brief, I conclude that the plaintiffs do have
The plaintiffs, who are the 13 members of the D. C. City
Council, have sued the Mayor for declaratory and injunctive relief,
based on his announced refusal to execute legislation duly enacted by
the Council. to order to maintain the suit, they argue that they have
what has been called "legislative standing," under a doctrine
enunciated by the U. S. Supreme Court and applied by-lower federal
courts,, including those in the local federal. circuit. The legislative
standing doctrine has never been addressed by our Court of Appeals;
nevertheless, because courts in our jurisdiction "look to"
federal principles of standing in determining whether a plaintiff is
entitled to bring suit, Friends of Tilden Park, Inc., v. District of
Columbia, 806 A.2d 1201, 1206-07 (D. C. 2002), the federal doctrine is
The concept of legislative standing was first stated by
the Supreme Court in Coleman v Miller, 307 U. S. 433 (1939), and most
recently articulated by that Court in Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811
(1997). Since the Raines decision, the scope and viability of
legislative standing has been addressed in several cases within this
federal circuit, including Chenoweth v. Clinton, 181
F.3d 112 (D.C. Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 529 U.S. 1012
(2000); Campbell v. Clinton, 203 F.3d 19 (D.C. Cir), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 815 (2000);
District of Columbia, 154 F. Supp. 2d 40 (D.D.C. 2001); and Kucinich v.
Bush, 236 F. Supp. 2d l (D.D.C. 2002).
It is apparent from these cases that legislative standing
has come to be understood as a narrow and sharply limited doctrine. In
the Raines case, a group of congressmen had challenged the President's
authority under the Line Item Veto Act. They alleged that the power
given to the executive to veto part of a law unconstitutionally
diminished the institutional power of Congress, and "alter[ed] the
legal and practical effects of [their] votes." 521 U.S. at 816.
The. Supreme Court, however, held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to
sue. Their claimed injury - the diminution of legislative authority, or
a shift in the balance of power between the two branches - was
"wholly abstract" and too "widely dispersed," id. at
829, to show the kind of "personal, particularized, [and] concrete" injury required by
the law of standing, id, at 820. Importantly, and in any event, the
President was acting pursuant to legislation passed by the Congress
itself Apart from anything else, then, Congress had a political remedy:
it could repeal the law.
In Chenoweth v. Clinton, the D.C. Circuit considered
legislative standing in light of Raines. Four congressmen challenged the
President's use of an executive order to institute an environmental
program. They argued that he had unconstitutionally by-passed the
legislative process, thereby. depriving them-of their right to
participate and vote on legislation, as the Constitution intended. The
court rejected the suit on standing grounds, reasoning that they alleged
only an "institutional" injury, rather than the nullification
of a vote that each had actually cast. 181 F.3d at 114-17. In any event,
as in Raines, Congress possessed a legislative remedy, since it could
repeal the program with sufficient votes.
In Campbell v. Clinton, 31 congressmen challenged the
President's use of American forces as part of NATO's intervention in
Kosovo. They argued that he had acted unconstitutionally and illegally, and had ignored
Congress' vote against an authorization of force under the War Powers
Resolution. The D. C. Circuit, however, concluded that this too was a
claim of institutional injury only, based on executive action that
allegedly exceeded constitutional and statutory authority. Moreover,
Congress had also voted against a bill that would have required all U.S.
military participation to cease. Plainly, then, a legislative remedy was
open to Congress, which meant that the plaintiffs could not show any
particularized or personal injury in the form of votes that had been
nullified or negated. 203 F.3d at 21-23.
Most recently, in Kucinich v. Bush, the D.C. District
Court considered whether 32 congressman had standing to challenge the
President's unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile
treaty. The plaintiffs alleged: that the. Constitution required: the
President to-seek congressional consent to a treaty withdrawal, and that
his action therefore "'deprived [them] of their constitutional
right and duty to participate in treaty termination,'" 236 F.
Supp. 2d at 6 (quoting the complaint). Again, the court concluded that
this sort of claimed institutional injury was too abstract and diffuse under Raines to confer
standing on the plaintiffs. Id at 6-11.
Legislative standing, then, does not mean that
legislators may sue the executive simply on the ground that the
executive branch has exceeded its authority, even by acting illegally or
unconstitutionally, or in a way that has in some sense usurped the
legislature's authority. It also does not mean that legislators may
assert essentially institutional injuries at the hand of the executive
branch - such things as diminutions in "power" or
"constitutional role" or "right to participate."
Rattier, as defined by the Supreme Court iii Raines and by the later
decisions of lower courts, it is confined to a specific circumstance:
"legislators whose votes would have been sufficient to defeat (or
enact) a specific legislative act have standing to sue if that
legislative action goes into effect (or does not go into effect), on the
ground that their votes have been completely nullified." 521 U.S.
at 823. The key notion is of a vote that is "completely
nullified," which means that it is "deprived of
all validity," 521 U.S. at 822, is "overridden and virtually
held for naught," id. at 822-23, or is "stripped of its
validity," id. at 824.
In other words, legislators asserting "legislative
standing" must show that they actually voted a certain way on a
measure, that they were victorious in that vote (that is, in enacting or
defeating the legislation), but that their legislative act, which would
otherwise have taken effect, has been "nullified" by the
defendant executive's act or failure to act. In the Chavous case, for
example, two D.C. Council members challenges the Financial Control
Board's actions in signing a contract that shifted city healthcare
services from D.C. General Hospital to Greater Southeast Hospital. The
Council had voted unanimously to reject the contract. The plaintiffs
claimed that the Board's signing and implementation of the contract,
despite the Council's vote, was beyond the Board's authority and
violated separation of powers principles. The District Court concluded
that the plaintiffs did .have standing under Coleman and Raines. If in.
fact, as plaintiffs alleged, the Control Board's authority had expired,
then the City Council's vote should have been decisive; the Control
Board's action, then, had "completely nullified," Raines, 521
U.S. at 823, the votes of the plaintiffs. 154 F. Supp. at 45-46.
The cases thus make clear that this exacting standard,
hedged by separation of powers concerns, must be applied carefully, and
presumably will be met in few circumstances. I conclude, however, that
this, like the Chavous case, is one such circumstance. Here, the City
Council unanimously (with one apparent abstention) voted to enact the
legislation in question. When the Mayor exercised his veto, the Council
overrode it by a vote of 12 to 1. That vote was "sufficient to ...
enact... a specific legislative act." Raines, 521 U.S. at 823. When
the Mayor then refused to execute the legislation's requirements, the
legislative act of the Council "[did] not go into effect,"
ibid., resulting in the vote of each Council member who voted for the
being "completely nullified,"
"overridden," and "deprived of all validity." Ibid.
As the plaintiffs point out, moreover, they have no further legislative
Whatever the validity of the Mayor's actions, then, I
conclude that the City Council members have standing to pursue this
action.1 The case will proceed on the merits.
So Ordered, this 18 day of June, 2003.
John M. Campbell
Signed In Chambers
Copies mailed to:
Charlotte Brookins-Hudson, Esquire General Counsel
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W., Suite 4 Washington, D.
Arabella Teal, Esquire
Interim Corporation Counsel
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W., Suite 409 Washington, D.
1. My analysis suggest that the one Council member who
voted against the veto override may not be a proper plaintiff. I leave
it to the parties to suggest whether that individual should be dismissed
from the lawsuit.