Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



In an important and certainly timely article published in the N.Y. U. Law Review, Nancy C. Staudt demonstrates that, in taxpayer standing cases, judges are motivated by politics but can be constrained when the law is clear and oversight exists. As part of that demonstration, Professor Staudt offers an empirical analysis of the decision to grant standing to federal taxpayers-the results of which we reproduce in Table 1.2

What are we to make of this rather ominous-looking table? Professor Staudt suggests two key takeaways. First, the analysis, she reports, shows that doctrine helps explain standing decisions even when political factors are taken into account. Both legal variables ("Spending" and "Spending and Establishment Clause") are statistically significant, controlling for all other factors listed in the table. Second, she finds an important role for the politics of the plaintiff: Judges are more likely to grant standing to a liberal plaintiff, regardless of their own political leanings.

No doubt, the data support Professor Staudt's claim about the importance of politics. The asterisk on the Plaintiff Politics variable, for example, tells us that a "statistically significant" relationship exists between a plaintiffs political ideology and the decision to grant standing.