“The Ninth Circuit enlarged the judicial power at the expense of the executive power. This violation of the separation of powers—if unchecked—could lead to the tyranny our Founders wanted to avoid.”
—John Masslon, WLF Senior Litigation Counsel
Click here for WLF’s brief.
WASHINGTON, DC— Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that would allow uninjured class members to recover damages in federal class-action lawsuits. WLF argues that Article III of the Constitution bars federal courts from hearing claims brought on behalf of those who suffered no concrete harm from alleged statutory violations.
The case arises from TransUnion’s alleged violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law regulating the inclusion of information in credit reports. Although the named plaintiff in this case, Sergio Ramirez, suffered an injury-in-fact, over 75% of the absent class members were not injured. The District Court, however, still certified the class and let the jury extrapolate Ramirez’s damages to the entire class. The Ninth Circuit then blessed that class certification.
In its brief supporting TransUnion, WLF argues that while Congress occasionally adopts statutes that create a right of action by private citizens, such statutes cannot alter the Constitution’s fundamental separation of powers, which bars courts from hearing any claim by any plaintiff who has not suffered a concrete injury-in-fact. As WLF’s brief points out, authorizing federal courts to enforce federal statutes at the behest of private individuals who have suffered no concrete injury would permit Congress to interfere unduly with the Executive Branch’s constitutional duty to enforce the nation’s laws under Article II’s Take Care Clause.
Private citizens may be unhappy to discover a violation of federal law. But they cannot pursue money damages on behalf of uninjured citizens. That is the Executive Branch’s duty. By allowing uninjured class members to recover monetary damages, the Ninth Circuit enlarged the judicial power at the expense of the executive power. This violation of the separation of powers—if unchecked—could lead to the tyranny our Founders wanted to avoid. WLF therefore urges the Supreme Court to safeguard the separation of powers by reversing the Ninth Circuit’s decision.
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