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March 13, 2009

Inaugural Oath and Prayers Suit Dismissed ... For Lack of Standing

Noteworthy at this point only because Ace and several commenters have been engaged in a rolling discussion of what it takes to actually get into court. Standing is just one of several questions of justiciability which keep cases from being litigated on the merits. Another is issue preclusion.

In a D.C. District Court decision released yesterday (PDF), Michael Newdow is shot down on one of his Establishment and Free Exercise Clause claims. He and several other people sued in December to enjoin Chief Justice Roberts from using the words "so help me God" when administering the oath of office to President Obama. They also sought to prevent clergy from offering prayers and benedictions at the event. They wanted an injunction not just for the January 2009 inauguration, but for the next two inaugural ceremonies.

The suit was dismissed for two reasons. First, the court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they failed to identify a "concrete and particularized injury" to themselves and because they failed demonstrate how the harm they allege is redressable by the relief they seek. Particularized injury and redressability are two components of standing. The third component, causation, is not mentioned in this case.

Second, the court held that Michael Newdow was precluded from relitigating the issue of standing to challenge inaugural oaths and prayers because he already sued on that issue in both the D.C. Circuit and in the Ninth Circuit (where the appellate courts held that he lacked standing to challenge the invocation at President Bush's 2001 inauguration).

Newdow says that he will appeal.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:20 AM

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