This article talks more about environmental issues, but you can see that there is a tendency by Chief Justice Roberts and Supreme Court in general to limit standing for ordinary citizens to bring legal actions.
Now we have a problem with Obama's lack of eligibility. If citizens have no standing and government and elected officials don't take a stand for political reasons, the public is left with opinions of partisan groups like factcheck.com, that are more interested in putting their guy in the White House then any pursuit of law and Constitution.
Judge Roberts Takes the Stand
CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
The Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate is expected to vote shortly on whether Federal Appeals Judge John Roberts should be the next Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A vote by the full Senate is expected to follow.
Judge Roberts recently fielded Judiciary Committee questions for the better part of three days, and many of those questions had to do with the core legal issues underpinning environmental regulation and legislation.
John Roberts with President Bush, July 2005 (White House photo by Eric Draper)
We've asked law professor Jonathan Turley to help us better understand those issues and what—if anything—we learned about Judge Roberts on the environment. Mr Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and joins us from his office in Washington, DC.
Professor Turley, welcome to Living on Earth.
TURLEY: Thanks. Good to be back.
CURWOOD: You know, it didn't take long for Senators to get to the environment in this hearing. The ranking Senate Democrat on Judiciary, Pat Leahy of Vermont, had a question in his very first round with Judge Roberts concerning something called "standing" and whether ordinary citizens should be able to bring environmental lawsuits. Why do you think that Senator Leahy put such importance on this issue? And what is standing anyway?
TURLEY: Well, Senator Leahy asked the right question because many citizens don't understand that no matter how good your laws may be, no matter how pro-environment and protective they may be, they mean nothing unless people can actually get into court and bring lawsuits under those laws. That's a question of standing. A citizen has to show that she has a right to bring a case before a court. That requires a showing of some injury and this notion of legal standing to qualify her, essentially, as a bona fide litigant.
In the last twenty years, the federal courts and Congress, to some extent, has been narrowing the principle of standing. Chief Justice Rehnquist has been particularly aggressive in narrowing the definition of standing and, thereby, reducing the access to the courts of some citizen groups and individual citizens.
CURWOOD: And, of course, the environment is an issue where almost anyone can claim they might be affected by something. I mean, if air is being polluted somewhere, anyone could breathe that air and they might be justifiably concerned about it.
TURLEY: That's right. And we went through a period where citizens were given a much more liberal treatment in bringing cases. And there was, in fact, a very significant case called Sierra Club v. Morton where the court actually debated whether trees and animals have standing; whether you can bring a lawsuit essentially on behalf of a forest. But those times are long gone. One of the principle things that the Rehnquist court worked on so ardently was to reduce standing and reduce access to the courts. John Roberts appears to be cut from that same cloth as Chief Justice Rehnquist.