Food and Commercial Workers v. Brown Group, Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 14 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 544 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

another's injury. And although we noted in Flast that "a litigant will ordinarily not be permitted to assert the rights of absent third parties," 392 U. S., at 99, n. 20; see also Valley Forge, supra, at 474, we recognized in Allen v. Wright, 468 U. S., at 751, that "the general prohibition on a litigant's raising another person's legal rights" is a "judicially self-imposed limi[t] on the exercise of federal jurisdiction," not a constitutional mandate. Indeed, the entire doctrine of "representational standing," of which the notion of "associational standing" is only one strand, rests on the premise that in certain circumstances, particular relationships (recognized either by common-law tradition 7 or by statute 8) are sufficient to rebut the background presumption (in the statutory context, about Congress's intent) that litigants may not assert the rights of absent third parties. Hence the third prong of the associational standing test is best seen as focusing on these matters of administrative convenience and efficiency, not on elements of a case or controversy within the meaning of the Constitution.

Circumstantial evidence of the prudential nature of this requirement is seen in the wide variety of other contexts in which a statute, federal rule, or accepted common-law practice permits one person to sue on behalf of another, even where damages are sought. "[R]epresentative damages litigation is common—from class actions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3) to suits by trustees representing hundreds of creditors in bankruptcy to parens patriae actions by state governments to litigation by and against executors of decedents' estates." In re Oil Spill by the Amoco Cadiz off the Coast of France on Mar. 16, 1978, 954 F. 2d 1279, 1319 (CA7 1992) (per curiam). In addition, 706(f)(1) of Title VII of the

7 See, e. g., Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U. S. 149 (1990) (recognizing a next-friend's standing).

8 See, e. g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U. S. C. 2000e et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 1060, as amended, 29 U. S. C. 201 et seq.


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