LUJAN v. NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
89-640
Petitioner 
Lujan
Respondent 
National Wildlife Federation
Advocates
(Argued the case for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
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Facts of the Case 

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) challenged 1,250 land-use designations made by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). NWF filed suit under section 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), claiming that the actions were "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." NWF argued that it had standing to sue because two of its members used public lands "in the vicinity" of lands affected by the BLM's decisions (four other members submitted affidavits claiming that they, too, used lands close to affected areas, but the District Court ruled that the affidavits had been submitted too late).

The BLM challenged the NWF's right to sue, and the District Court agreed. It found that the two affidavits filed in a timely manner did not show that the members had been sufficiently affected to have standing to sue. Furthermore, the court ruled that even if they had had standing to challenge those specific BLM decisions, they would not have had standing to challenge all 1,250.

On appeal, however, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the initial two affidavits were enough to give them standing to challenge all 1,250 decisions. Moreover, the Court ruled that the District Court had abused its discretion by refusing to consider the additional four affidavits.

Question 

Does an organization representing private citizens who use public land "in the vicinity" of areas affected by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land-use designations have standing to challenge those designations under section 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act? Does standing to challenge several individual BLM decision confer standing to challenge those decisions as a whole, even when the organization's members are not affected by the bulk of the decisions?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Lujan, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Administrative Procedure, or Administrative Orders Review

No and no. In a 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court held that NWF did not have standing to challenge the land-use designations. The two timely affidavits were not enough to show that the group members had actually been affected by the BLM decisions. Even if they had been, and if the four additional affidavits had been considered (which the Supreme Court ruled had not been necessary), the right to challenge the individual decisions would not have conveyed a right to challenge all of them. The decisions were not a single "agency action" but rather a series of actions which would have to be challenged individually. "The case-by-case approach that this requires is understandably frustrating to an organization such as [NWF], which has as its objective across-the-board protection of our Nation's wildlife and the streams and forests that support it," wrote Justice Scalia. "But this is the traditional, and remains the normal, mode of operation of the courts. ... Until confided to us, ... more sweeping actions are for the other branches."

Cite this Page
LUJAN v. NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_89_640>.
LUJAN v. NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_89_640 (last visited June 20, 2014).
"LUJAN v. NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_89_640.