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Young America's Foundation v. Gates

July 24, 2009

YOUNG AMERICA'S FOUNDATION, APPELLANT
v.
ROBERT M. GATES, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:07-cv-01351-JDB).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ginsburg, Circuit Judge

Argued March 5, 2009

Before: GINSBURG, Circuit Judge, and WILLIAMS and RANDOLPH, Senior Circuit Judges. Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge GINSBURG. Opinion concurring in the judgment filed by Senior Circuit Judge RANDOLPH.

The Young America's Foundation sued to compel the Secretary of Defense to withhold funds from the University of California-Santa Cruz because the University allegedly maintains a policy or practice that denies military recruiters access to the campus equal to the access available to other employers. The district court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, holding both that YAF lacks standing and that the Secretary's decision whether to enforce the Solomon Amendment is committed to his discretion by law and therefore not reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act, see 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2). Because we agree YAF lacks standing, we affirm the order of the district court on that ground alone.

I. Background

No federal funds subject to the so-called Solomon Amendment may be provided to a college or university

if the Secretary of Defense determines that that institution ... has a policy or practice ... that either prohibits, or in effect prevents the Secretary of a military department ... from gaining access to campuses, or access to students ... for purposes of military recruiting in a manner that is at least equal in quality and scope to the access to campuses and to students that is provided to any other employer.

10 U.S.C. § 983(b); see id. § 983(d) (monies to be withheld include all "funds made available for" use by certain departments and agencies, not including funds for student financial assistance).*fn1 YAF, which is "committed to ensuring that young Americans understand and are inspired by ... the importance of a strong national defense," Amended Compl. P 3, has among its members several students enrolled at UCSC, id. P 5. YAF alleges that on five occasions from 2005 to 2007 students and faculty protesters prevented or disrupted military recruiting at UCSC. On two such occasions, disruptive protests caused military recruiters to leave an on-campus job fair. On another occasion, protesters blocked students' access to military recruiters at a job fair. As a result, on all three occasions one or more student members of YAF who wanted to meet with a military recruiter was unable to do so. Finally, the threat of protests caused UCSC to cancel one job fair and caused some military recruiters to withdraw in advance from another.

YAF informed the Secretary of these incidents at UCSC but the Secretary took no action pursuant to the Solomon Amendment. YAF eventually filed this suit, seeking a writ of mandamus and an injunction ordering the Secretary to determine that UCSC is in violation of the Amendment and to withhold covered federal funds.

The district court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, holding YAF lacked standing and the Secretary's decision regarding enforcement of the Solomon Amendment was committed to his discretion by law and therefore not subject to judicial review under the APA. 560 F. Supp. 2d 39, 47 (2008). YAF then appealed.

II. Analysis

We review de novo a dismissal for lack of standing, Renal Physicians Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 489 F.3d 1267, 1273, 376 U.S. App. D.C. 431 (D.C. Cir. 2007), on the assumption the allegations of the complaint relevant to standing are true, Metro. Wash. Airports Auth. v. Citizens for Abatement of Aircraft Noise, Inc., 501 U.S. 252, 264, 111 S. Ct. 2298, 115 L. Ed. 2d 236 (1991). A membership organization has standing to sue if, inter alia, "at least one of its members would have standing to sue in his own right." Sierra Club v. EPA, 292 F.3d 895, 898, 352 U.S. App. D.C. 191 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 342-43, 97 S. Ct. 2434, 53 L. Ed. 2d 383 (1977)). Because, as we conclude below, no member of YAF has standing to sue in his own right, YAF lacks standing.

The "irreducible constitutional minimum of standing contains three elements": (1) injury in fact, (2) causation, and (3) redressability. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S. Ct. 2130, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351 (1992). YAF asserts its members have been injured because they have been deprived of the opportunity to meet on the UCSC campus with military recruiters. The district court assumed YAF had alleged a sufficient injury, but held it had not alleged facts sufficient to show the injury (1) was caused by the Secretary's failure to list UCSC as not in compliance with the Solomon Amendment and to withhold funds accordingly and (2) would be redressed by an order compelling him to do so. 560 F. Supp. 2d. at 50. We agree that YAF has not alleged facts sufficient to show its injury will be redressed by the relief it seeks.

YAF's burden was to allege facts showing it is "likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that [its] injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 561 (internal quotation marks omitted). Where the plaintiff's injury "arises from the government's allegedly unlawful regulation (or lack of regulation) of someone else" -- here, the Secretary's failure to regulate UCSC -- redressability turns ultimately upon "choices made by independent actors not before the courts." Id. at 562 (emphasis omitted); see Summers v. Earth Island Inst., 129 S.Ct. 1142, 1149, 173 L. Ed. 2d 1 ...


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