• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court made it more difficult for taxpayers to sue the government.

Plaintiff Richardson sued the United States, alleging that the law prohibiting the disclosure of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spending violated Article I, section 9, of the U.S. Constitution requiring publication of all public expenditures. The trial court and appellate courts reversed various parts of Richardson’s suit but essentially upheld his right to sue in some form. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court overturned this latter conclusion, making taxpayers’ suits practically impossible. In his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Warren E. BurgerBurger, Warren E.;Richardson, United States v.[Richardson, United States v.] restored the basic rule that taxpayers may not sue the government unless they show direct personal harm from the government’s action. Burger distinguished Flast v. Cohen[case]Flast v. Cohen[Flast v. Cohen] (1968) by giving it such a narrow interpretation that it restored the basic rule of Frothingham v. Mellon[case]Frothingham v. Mellon[Frothingham v. Mellon] (1923) for taxpayers’ suits. Justice Potter Stewart and Thurgood Marshall wrote dissents in which they were joined by others. The thrust of the dissents was that taxpayers should be able to sue the government for failing an affirmative duty under the Constitution without having to show a personal loss.Standing;Richardson, United States v.[Richardson, United States v.]

Flast v. Cohen

Frothingham v. Mellon


Categories: History