Allen v. Wright

No. 81-757

Argued February 29, 1984; Decided July 3, 1984*

468 U.S. 737

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

Parents of black public school children allege in this nationwide class action that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not adopted sufficient standards and procedures to fulfill its obligation to deny tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools. They assert that the IRS thereby harms them directly and interferes with the ability of their

Page 468 U. S. 740

children to receive an education in desegregated public schools. The issue before us is whether plaintiffs have standing to bring this suit. We hold that they do not.

I

The IRS denies tax-exempt status under 501(a) and (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 501(a) and (c)(3) -- and hence eligibility to receive charitable contributions deductible from income taxes under 170(a)(1) and (c)(2) of the Code, 26 U.S.C. 170(a)(1) and (c)(2) -- to racially discriminatory private schools. Rev.Rul. 71-447, 1971-2 Cum.Bull. 230. [Footnote 1] The IRS policy requires that a school applying for tax-exempt status show that it

"admits the students of any race to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at that school and that the school does not discriminate on the basis of race in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs."

Ibid. To carry out this policy, the IRS has established guidelines and procedures for determining whether a particular school is in fact racially nondiscriminatory. Rev.Proc. 75-50, 1975-2 Cum.Bull. 587. [Footnote 2] Failure to comply with the guidelines "will ordinarily result in the proposed revocation of" tax-exempt status. Id.  4.08, p. 589.

[468 U. S. 741] The guidelines provide that

"[a] school must show affirmatively both that it has adopted a racially nondiscriminatory policy as to students that is made known to the general public and that since the adoption of that policy it has operated in a bona fide manner in accordance therewith."

Id.  2.02. [Footnote 3] The school must state its nondiscrimination policy in its organizational charter, id.  4.01. pp. 587-588, and in all of its brochures, catalogs, and other advertisements to prospective students, id.  4.02, p. 588. The school must make its nondiscrimination policy known to the entire community served by the school, and must publicly disavow any contrary representations made on its behalf once it becomes aware of them. Id.  4.03. [Footnote 4] The school must have nondiscriminatory [468 U. S. 742] policies concerning all programs and facilities, id.  4.04, p. 589, including scholarships and loans, id.  4.05, [Footnote 5] and the school must annually certify, under penalty of perjury, compliance with these requirements, id.  4.07. [Footnote 6] The IRS rules require a school applying for tax-exempt status to give a breakdown along racial lines of its student body and its faculty and administrative staff, id.  5.01-1, as well as of scholarships and loans awarded, id.  5.01-2. They also require the applicant school to state the year of its organization, id.  5.01-5, and to list "incorporators, founders, board members, and donors of land or buildings," id.  5.01-3, and state whether any of the organizations among these have an objective of maintaining segregated public or private school education, id.  5.01-4. The rules further provide that, once given an exemption, a school must keep specified records to document the extent of compliance with the IRS guidelines.Id.  7, p. 590. [Footnote 7] Finally, the [468 U. S. 743] rules announce that any information concerning discrimination at a tax-exempt school is officially welcomed. Id.  6. [Footnote 8]

In 1976, respondents challenged these guidelines and procedures in a suit filed in Federal District Court against the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. [Footnote 9] The plaintiffs named in the complaint are parents of black children who, at the time the complaint was filed, were attending public schools in seven States in school districts undergoing desegregation. They brought this nationwide class action

"on behalf of themselves and their children, and . . . on behalf of all other parents of black children attending public school systems undergoing, or which may in the future undergo, desegregation pursuant to court order [or] HEW regulations and guidelines, under state law, or voluntarily."

App. 22-23. They estimated that the class they seek to represent includes several million persons. Id. at 23.

Respondents allege in their complaint that many racially segregated private schools were created or expanded in their [468 U. S. 744] communities at the time the public schools were undergoing desegregation. Id. at 23-24. According to the complaint, many such private schools, including 17 schools or school systems identified by name in the complaint (perhaps some 30 schools in all), receive tax exemptions either directly or through the tax-exempt status of "umbrella" organizations that operate or support the schools. Id. at 23-38. [Footnote 10] Respondents allege that, despite the IRS policy of denying tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools, and despite the IRS guidelines and procedures for implementing that policy, some of the tax-exempt racially segregated private schools created or expanded in desegregating districts in fact have racially discriminatory policies. Id. at 17-18 (IRS permits "schools to receive tax exemptions merely on the basis of adopting and certifying -- but not implementing -- a policy of nondiscrimination"); id. at 25 (same). [Footnote 11] Respondents [468 U. S. 745] allege that the IRS grant of tax exemptions to such racially discriminatory schools is unlawful. [Footnote 12]

Respondents allege that the challenged Government conduct harms them in two ways. The challenged conduct

"(a) constitutes tangible federal financial aid and other support for racially segregated educational institutions, and"

"(b) fosters and encourages the organization, operation and expansion of institutions providing racially segregated educational opportunities for white children avoiding attendance in desegregating public school districts, and thereby interferes with the efforts of federal courts, HEW and local school authorities to desegregate public school districts which have been operating racially dual school systems." Id. at 38-39.

[468 U. S. 746] Thus, respondents do not allege that their children have been the victims of discriminatory exclusion from the schools whose tax exemptions they challenge as unlawful. Indeed, they have not alleged at any stage of this litigation that their children have ever applied or would ever apply to any private school. See Wright v. Regan, 211 U.S.App.D.C. 231, 238, 656 F.2d 820, 827 (1981) ("Plaintiffs . . . maintain they have no interest whatever in enrolling their children in a private school"). Rather, respondents claim a direct injury from the mere fact of the challenged Government conduct and, as indicated by the restriction of the plaintiff class to parents of children in desegregating school districts, injury to their children's opportunity to receive a desegregated education. [Footnote 13] The latter injury is traceable to the IRS grant of tax exemptions to racially discriminatory schools, respondents allege, chiefly because contributions to such schools are deductible from income taxes under 170(a)(1) and (c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code and the

"deductions facilitate the raising of finds to organize new schools and expand existing schools in order to accommodate white students avoiding attendance in desegregating public school districts." App. 24. [Footnote 14]

Respondents request only prospective relief. Id. at 40-41. They ask for a declaratory judgment that the challenged IRS tax-exemption practices are unlawful. They also [468 U. S. 747] ask for an injunction requiring the IRS to deny tax exemptions to a considerably broader class of private schools than the class of racially discriminatory private schools. Under the requested injunction, the IRS would have to deny tax-exempt status to all private schools

"which have insubstantial or nonexistent minority enrollments, which are located in or serve desegregating public school districts, and which either -- "

"(1) were established or expanded at or about the time the public school districts in which they are located or which they serve were desegregating;"

"(2) have been determined in adversary judicial or administrative proceedings to be racially segregated; or"

"(3) cannot demonstrate that they do not provide racially segregated educational opportunities for white children avoiding attendance in desegregating public school systems. . . ." Id. at 40.

Finally, respondents ask for an order directing the IRS to replace its 1975 guidelines with standards consistent with the requested injunction.

* * *

[468 U.S. 50] II

A

Article III of the Constitution confines the federal courts to adjudicating actual "cases" and "controversies." As the Court explained in Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U. S. 464454 U. S. 471-476 (1982), the "case or controversy" requirement defines with respect to the Judicial Branch the idea of separation of powers on which the Federal Government is founded. The several doctrines that have grown up to elaborate that requirement are "founded in concern about the proper -- and properly limited -- role of the courts in a democratic society." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490422 U. S. 498 (1975).

"All of the doctrines that cluster about Article III -- not only standing but mootness, ripeness, political question, and the like -- relate in part, and in different though overlapping ways, to an idea, which is more than an intuition but less than a rigorous and explicit theory, about the constitutional and prudential limits to the powers of an unelected, unrepresentative judiciary in our kind of government."

Vander Jagt v. O'Neill, 226 U.S.App.D.C. 14, 26-27, 699 F.2d 1166, 1178-1179 (1983) (Bork, J., concurring). The case-or-controversy doctrines state fundamental limits on federal judicial power in our system of government.

The Art. III doctrine that requires a litigant to have "standing" to invoke the power of a federal court is perhaps the most important of these doctrines.

"In essence, the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the [468 U. S. 751] court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues."

Warth v. Seldin, supra, at 422 U. S. 498. Standing doctrine embraces several judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction, such as the general prohibition on a litigant's raising another person's legal rights, the rule barring adjudication of generalized grievances more appropriately addressed in the representative branches, and the requirement that a plaintiff's complaint fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked. See Valley Forge, supra, at 454 U. S. 474-475. The requirement of standing, however, has a core component derived directly from the Constitution. A plaintiff must allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief. 454 U.S. at 454 U. S. 472.

Like the prudential component, the constitutional component of standing doctrine incorporates concepts concededly not susceptible of precise definition. The injury alleged must be, for example, "distinct and palpable,'" Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U. S. 91441 U. S. 100 (1979) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, supra, at 422 U. S. 501), and not "abstract" or "conjectural" or "hypothetical," Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U. S. 95461 U. S. 101-102 (1983); O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U. S. 488414 U. S. 494 (1974). The injury must be "fairly" traceable to the challenged action, and relief from the injury must be "likely" to follow from a favorable decision. See Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. at 426 U. S. 38426 U. S. 41. These terms cannot be defined so as to make application of the constitutional standing requirement a mechanical exercise.

The absence of precise definitions, however, as this Court's extensive body of case law on standing illustrates, see generally Valley Forge, supra, at 454 U. S. 471-476, hardly leaves courts at sea in applying the law of standing. Like most legal notions, the standing concepts have gained considerable definition from developing case law. In many cases, the standing question can be answered chiefly by comparing the allegations of the particular complaint to those made in prior standing [468 U. S. 752] cases. See, e.g., Los Angeles v. Lyons, supra, at 461 U. S. 102-105. More important, the law of Art. III standing is built on a single basic idea -- the idea of separation of powers. It is this fact which makes possible the gradual clarification of the law through judicial application. Of course, both federal and state courts have long experience in applying and elaborating in numerous contexts the pervasive and fundamental notion of separation of powers.

Determining standing in a particular case may be facilitated by clarifying principles or even clear rules developed in prior cases. Typically, however, the standing inquiry requires careful judicial examination of a complaint's allegations to ascertain whether the particular plaintiff is entitled to an adjudication of the particular claims asserted. Is the injury too abstract, or otherwise not appropriate, to be considered judicially cognizable? Is the line of causation between the illegal conduct and injury too attenuated? Is the prospect of obtaining relief from the injury as a result of a favorable ruling too speculative? These questions and any others relevant to the standing inquiry must be answered by reference to the Art. III notion that federal courts may exercise power only "in the last resort, and as a necessity," Chicago & Grand Trunk R. Co. v. Wellman, 143 U. S. 339143 U. S. 345 (1892), and only when adjudication is

"consistent with a system of separated powers and [the dispute is one] traditionally thought to be capable of resolution through the judicial process,"

Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S. 83392 U. S. 97 (1968). See Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 454 U. S. 472-473.

B

Respondents allege two injuries in their complaint to support their standing to bring this lawsuit. First, they say that they are harmed directly by the mere fact of Government financial aid to discriminatory private schools. Second, they say that the federal tax exemptions to racially discriminatory private schools in their communities impair

Page 468 U. S. 753

their ability to have their public schools desegregated. See supra at 468 U. S. 745.

In the Court of Appeals, respondents apparently relied on the first injury. Thus, the court below asserted that "[t]he sole injury [respondents] claim is the denigration they suffer" as a result of the tax exemptions. 211 U.S.App.D.C. at 238, 656 F.2d at 827. In this Court, respondents have not focused on this claim of injury. Here they stress the effect of the tax exemptions on their "equal educational opportunities," see, e.g., Brief for Respondents 12, 14, renewing reliance on the second injury described in their complaint.

Because respondents have not clearly disclaimed reliance on either of the injuries described in their complaint, we address both allegations of injury. We conclude that neither suffices to support respondents' standing. The first fails under clear precedents of this Court because it does not constitute judicially cognizable injury. The second fails because the alleged injury is not fairly traceable to the assertedly unlawful conduct of the IRS. [Footnote 19]

1

Respondents' first claim of injury can be interpreted in two ways. It might be a claim simply to have the Government [468 U. S. 754] avoid the violation of law alleged in respondents' complaint. Alternatively, it might be a claim of stigmatic injury, or denigration, suffered by all members of a racial group when the Government discriminates on the basis of race. [Footnote 20] Under neither interpretation is this claim of injury judicially cognizable.

This Court has repeatedly held that an asserted right to have the Government act in accordance with law is not sufficient, standing alone, to confer jurisdiction on a federal court. In Schlesinger v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War, 418 U. S. 208(1974), for example, the Court rejected a claim of citizen standing to challenge Armed Forces Reserve commissions held by Members of Congress as violating the Incompatibility Clause of Art. I, 6, of the Constitution. As citizens, the Court held, plaintiffs alleged nothing but "the abstract injury in nonobservance of the Constitution. . . .Id. at 418 U. S. 223, n. 13. More recently, in Valley Forge, supra, we rejected a claim of standing to challenge a Government conveyance of property to a religious institution. Insofar as the plaintiffs relied simply on "their shared individuated right'" to a Government that made no law respecting an establishment of religion, id. at 454 U. S. 482 (quoting Americans United v. U.S. Dept. of HEW, 619 F.2d 252, 261 (CA3 1980)), we held that plaintiffs had not alleged a judicially cognizable injury.

"[A]ssertion of a right to a particular kind of Government conduct, which the Government has violated by acting differently, cannot alone satisfy the requirements of Art. III without draining those requirements of meaning."

454 U.S. at 454 U. S. 483See also United States v. Richardson, 418 U. S. 166 (1974); Laird v. Tatum, 408 U. S. 1 (1972); [468 U. S. 755] Ex parte Levitt, 302 U.S. 633 (1937). Respondents here have no standing to complain simply that their Government is violating the law.

Neither do they have standing to litigate their claims based on the stigmatizing injury often caused by racial discrimination. There can be no doubt that this sort of noneconomic injury is one of the most serious consequences of discriminatory government action, and is sufficient in some circumstances to support standing. See Heckler v. Mathews,465 U. S. 728465 U. S. 739-740 (1984). Our cases make clear, however, that such injury accords a basis for standing only to "those persons who are personally denied equal treatment" by the challenged discriminatory conduct, ibid.

In Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis, 407 U. S. 163 (1972), the Court held that the plaintiff had no standing to challenge a club's racially discriminatory membership policies, because he had never applied for membership. Id. at 407 U. S. 166-167. In O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U. S. 488 (1974), the Court held that the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge racial discrimination in the administration of their city's criminal justice system, because they had not alleged that they had been, or would likely be, subject to the challenged practices. The Court denied standing on similar facts in Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U. S. 362(1976). In each of those cases, the plaintiffs alleged official racial discrimination comparable to that alleged by respondents here. Yet standing was denied in each case because the plaintiffs were not personally subject to the challenged discrimination. Insofar as their first claim of injury is concerned, respondents are in exactly the same position: unlike the appellee in Heckler v. Mathews, supra, at 465 U. S. 740-741, n. 9, they do not allege a stigmatic injury suffered as a direct result of having personally been denied equal treatment.

The consequences of recognizing respondents' standing on the basis of their first claim of injury illustrate why our cases plainly hold that such injury is not judicially cognizable. If the abstract stigmatic injury were cognizable, standing [468 U. S. 756] would extend nationwide to all members of the particular racial groups against which the Government was alleged to be discriminating by its grant of a tax exemption to a racially discriminatory school, regardless of the location of that school. All such persons could claim the same sort of abstract stigmatic injury respondents assert in their first claim of injury. A black person in Hawaii could challenge the grant of a tax exemption to a racially discriminatory school in Maine. Recognition of standing in such circumstances would transform the federal courts into "no more than a vehicle for the vindication of the value interests of concerned bystanders." United States v. SCRAP, 412 U. S. 669412 U. S. 687 (1973). Constitutional limits on the role of the federal courts preclude such a transformation. [Footnote 21]

2

It is in their complaint's second claim of injury that respondents allege harm to a concrete, personal interest that can support standing in some circumstances. The injury they identify -- their children's diminished ability to receive an education in a racially integrated school -- is, beyond any doubt, not only judicially cognizable but, as shown by cases from Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954), to Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U. S. 574 (1983), one of the most serious injuries recognized in our legal system. Despite the constitutional importance of curing the [468 U. S. 757] injury alleged by respondents, however, the federal judiciary may not redress it unless standing requirements are met. In this case, respondents' second claim of injury cannot support standing, because the injury alleged is not fairly traceable to the Government conduct respondents challenge as unlawful. [Footnote 22]

The illegal conduct challenged by respondents is the IRS's grant of tax exemptions to some racially discriminatory schools. The line of causation between that conduct and desegregation of respondents' schools is attenuated, at best. From the perspective of the IRS, the injury to respondents is highly indirect, and "results from the independent action of some third party not before the court," Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. at 426 U. S. 42. As the Court pointed out in Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. at 422 U. S. 505, "the [468 U. S. 758] indirectness of the injury . . . may make it substantially more difficult to meet the minimum requirement of Art. III. . . ."

The diminished ability of respondents' children to receive a desegregated education would be fairly traceable to unlawful IRS grants of tax exemptions only if there were enough racially discriminatory private schools receiving tax exemptions in respondents' communities for withdrawal of those exemptions to make an appreciable difference in public school integration. Respondents have made no such allegation. It is, first, uncertain how many racially discriminatory private schools are in fact receiving tax exemptions. [Footnote 23] Moreover, it is entirely speculative, as respondents themselves conceded in the Court of Appeals, see n 17, supra, whether withdrawal of a tax exemption from any particular school would lead the school to change its policies. See 480 F.Supp. at 796. It is just as speculative whether any given parent of a child attending such a private school would decide to transfer the child to public school as a result of any changes in educational or financial policy made by the private school once it was threatened with loss of tax-exempt status. It is also pure speculation whether, in a particular community, a large enough number of the numerous relevant school officials and parents would reach decisions that collectively would have a significant impact on the racial composition of the public schools.

[468 U. S. 759] The links in the chain of causation between the challenged Government conduct and the asserted injury are far too weak for the chain as a whole to sustain respondents' standing. In Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., supra, the Court held that standing to challenge a Government grant of a tax exemption to hospitals could not be founded on the asserted connection between the grant of tax-exempt status and the hospitals' policy concerning the provision of medical services to indigents. [Footnote 24] The causal connection depended on the decisions hospitals would make in response to withdrawal of tax-exempt status, and those decisions were sufficiently uncertain to break the chain of causation between the plaintiffs' injury and the challenged Government action. Id. at 426 U. S. 40-46. See also Warth v. Seldin, supra. The chain of causation is even weaker in this case. It involves numerous third parties (officials of racially discriminatory schools receiving tax exemptions and the parents of children attending such schools) who may not even exist in respondents' communities and whose independent decisions may not collectively have a significant effect on the ability of public school students to receive a desegregated education.

The idea of separation of powers that underlies standing doctrine explains why our cases preclude the conclusion that respondents' alleged injury "fairly can be traced to the challenged action" of the IRS. Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., supra, at 426 U. S. 41. That conclusion would pave the way generally for suits challenging, not specifically identifiable Government violations of law, but the particular programs agencies establish to carry out their legal obligations. Such suits, even when premised on allegations of [468 U. S. 760] several instances of violations of law, are rarely, if ever, appropriate for federal court adjudication.

"Carried to its logical end, [respondents'] approach would have the federal courts as virtually continuing monitors of the wisdom and soundness of Executive action; such a role is appropriate for the Congress, acting through its committees and the 'power of the purse;' it is not the role of the judiciary, absent actual present or immediately threatened injury resulting from unlawful governmental action."

Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. at 408 U. S. 15See also Gilligan v. Morgan, 413 U. S. 1413 U. S. 14 (1973) (BLACKMUN, J., concurring).

The same concern for the proper role of the federal courts is reflected in cases like O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U. S. 488 (1974), Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U. S. 362 (1976), and Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U. S. 95 (1983). In all three cases, plaintiffs sought injunctive relief directed at certain systemwide law enforcement practices. [Footnote 25] The Court held in each case that, absent an allegation of a specific threat of being subject to the challenged practices, plaintiffs had no standing to ask for an injunction. Animating this Court's holdings was the principle that "[a] federal court . . . is not the proper forum to press" general complaints about the way in which government goes about its business. Id. at 461 U. S. 112.

Case-or-controversy considerations, the Court observed in O'Shea v. Littleton, supra, at 414 U. S. 499, "obviously shade into those determining whether the complaint states a sound basis for equitable relief." The latter set of considerations should therefore inform our judgment about whether respondents [468 U. S. 761] have standing. Most relevant to this case is the principle articulated in Rizzo v. Goode, supra, at 423 U. S. 378-379:

"When a plaintiff seeks to enjoin the activity of a government agency, even within a unitary court system, his case must contend with "the well-established rule that the Government has traditionally been granted the widest latitude in the dispatch of its own internal affairs,' Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U. S. 886367 U. S. 896 (1961)," quoted in Sampson v. Murray, 415 U. S. 61415 U. S. 83 (1974)."

When transported into the Art. III context, that principle, grounded as it is in the idea of separation of powers, counsels against recognizing standing in a case brought, not to enforce specific legal obligations whose violation works a direct harm, but to seek a restructuring of the apparatus established by the Executive Branch to fulfill its legal duties. The Constitution, after all, assigns to the Executive Branch, and not to the Judicial Branch, the duty to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." U.S.Const., Art. II, 3. We could not recognize respondents' standing in this case without running afoul of that structural principle. [Footnote 26]

* * *

III

[468 U.S. 766] "The necessity that the plaintiff who seeks to invoke judicial power stand to profit in some personal interest remains an Art. III requirement." Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. at 426 U. S. 39. Respondents have not met this fundamental requirement. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is accordingly reversed, and the injunction issued by that court is vacated.

It is so ordered.

JUSTICE BRENNAN, dissenting.

Once again, the Court "uses 'standing to slam the courthouse door against plaintiffs who are entitled to full consideration of their claims on the merits.'" Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U. S. 464454 U. S. 490 (1982) (BRENNAN, J., dissenting) (quoting Barlow v. Collins, 397 U. S. 159397 U. S. 178 (1970) (BRENNAN, J., concurring in result and dissenting)). And once again, the Court does so by "wax[ing] eloquent" on considerations that provide little justification for the decision at hand. See 454 U.S. at 454 U. S. 491. This time, however, the Court focuses on "the idea of separation of powers," ante at 468 U. S. 750468 U. S. 752468 U. S. 759468 U. S. 761, as if the mere incantation of that phrase provides an obvious solution to the difficult questions presented by these cases. [468 U. S. 767]

One could hardly dispute the proposition that Art. III of the Constitution, by limiting the judicial power to "Cases" or "Controversies," embodies the notion that each branch of our National Government must confine its actions to those that are consistent with our scheme of separated powers. But simply stating that unremarkable truism provides little, if any, illumination of the standing inquiry that must be undertaken by a federal court faced with a particular action filed by particular plaintiffs. "The question whether a particular person is a proper party to maintain the action does not, by its own force, raise separation of powers problems related to improper judicial interference in areas committed to other branches of the Federal Government." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S. 83392 U. S. 100 (1968).

The Court's attempt to obscure the standing question must be seen, therefore, as no more than a cover for its failure to recognize the nature of the specific claims raised by the respondents in these cases. By relying on generalities concerning our tripartite system of government, the Court is able to conclude that the respondents lack standing to maintain this action without acknowledging the precise nature of the injuries they have alleged. In so doing, the Court displays a startling insensitivity to the historical role played by the federal courts in eradicating race discrimination from our Nation's schools -- a role that has played a prominent part in this Court's decisions from Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483(1954), through Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U. S. 574 (1983). Because I cannot join in such misguided decisionmaking, I dissent.

* * *

[Rest of dissent omitted]

[468 U.S. 783] JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE BLACKMUN joins, dissenting.

Three propositions are clear to me: (1) respondents have adequately alleged "injury in fact"; (2) their injury is fairly traceable to the conduct that they claim to be unlawful; and (3) the "separation of powers" principle does not create a jurisdictional obstacle to the consideration of the merits of their claim.

* * *

[Rest of dissent omitted]