Third-party standing is a limited doctrine that allows plaintiffs to file lawsuits in federal court based on the rights of others.  The civil rights attorneys at Miller Law Group can help you navigate the complexities of federal litigation.

To have standing to bring a lawsuit in federal court every plaintiff must show (1) that they have been injured; (2) that the defendant caused that injury; and (3) that the court can redress that injury.  This is often called Article III or constitutional standing.

In most instances, a plaintiff cannot base a lawsuit on the violations of another’s rights, even if they meet the requirements of Article III standing.  However, in certain limited cases, a plaintiff may assert the rights of another. In addition to the standing requirements above, a plaintiff must show a close relationship to the person or group whose rights are being asserted and some hinderance preventing that person or group from bringing their own action.

In Singleton v. Wulff, this third-party standing was allowed by the Supreme Court in a lawsuit file by doctors on behalf of their patients.  The doctors had been financially injured.  However, they were challenging the constitutionality of a law based on its alleged infringement of their patients’ constitutional rights.  The Court held that the doctor-patient relationship was sufficiently close and that patients may be hindered from filing their own claims for privacy reasons.

In another case, Kowalski v. Tesmer, the Supreme Court denied plaintiffs’ attempts to establish third-party standing.  There, the plaintiffs were criminal attorneys attempting to sue on behalf of potential clients.  A state law denied the right to court appointed lawyers on appeal when indigent defendants had pleaded guilty.  The Court held that, although the attorneys had been financially injured by the law, their hypothetical attorney-client relationship was too speculative to establish third-party standing.  The Court also held that these potential clients did not face a sufficient hinderance, citing the prominence of prisoners filing lawsuits without attorneys.

Although it is only available in limited circumstances, a civil rights plaintiff may be able to bring a lawsuit based on the violation of another person’s constitutional rights.

If you or a loved one was harmed by an unconstitutional act of the government, contact Miller Law Group today for a free consultation or call us at (919) 348-4361.  Our civil rights attorneys can help you hold the government accountable.

Additional Resources: 

What damages can I recover in a § 1983 lawsuit?

Are immigrants protected by civil rights laws?

What civil rights do prisoners and probationers have?