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YOUNGER v. TURNAGE

January 13, 1988

James A. Younger, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Thomas K. Turnage, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiffs, two individuals and three organizations, *fn1" bring suit challenging the compliance of defendants, Veterans Administration ("VA") and its administrator, Thomas K. Turnage, with the Veterans Education and Training Act Amendments of 1970, codified at 38 U.S.C. §§ 240 et seq. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief in an effort to force the defendants to comply with this statute as plaintiffs interpret it. See Complaint at 1-3.

 The plaintiffs in this action demand that the VA adopt an outreach program similar to one developed in New York City in a cooperative effort involving state and city agencies and the VA regional office. As proposed by the plaintiffs, the VA would be required to go into the shelters on a regular basis, train shelter staff, and expedite homeless veterans' claims. See Complaint at 13-14. While this program has been apparently successful, its success is due in no small part to the cooperation and assistance provided by local government and shelter operators. Thus, the standards sought by the plaintiffs go well beyond that which is required of the VA by the Veterans Outreach Services Program.

 The plaintiffs ask this Court to declare that the failure of the VA to issue systematic, nationwide standards for the provision of outreach services to assist homeless veterans in obtaining benefits to which they may be entitled is unlawful and a violation of the defendants' statutory obligations. See Complaint at 19. Furthermore, plaintiffs seek to have this Court enjoin the defendants to establish certain minimum standards for outreach to homeless veterans. See Complaint at 20. *fn2" According to the plaintiffs, the defendants are failing to fulfill their statutory obligation to conduct outreach to the "maximum extent possible" to all veterans by refusing to establish any meaningful standards for conducting outreach to homeless veterans. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 1.

 By orders dated May 11 and May 19, 1987, this Court directed the parties to supplement the record so that this case could be decided on the merits on cross-motions for summary judgment. After careful consideration of the papers proffered by the parties, the Court concludes that the plaintiffs do have the requisite standing to bring this action, but that the defendants, in the exercise of their discretion, have not acted arbitrarily or capriciously in interpreting and applying the statute. Therefore, the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment must be denied, and the defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted.

 II. ALL PLAINTIFFS TO THIS ACTION HAVE STANDING TO SUE

 A. The Requisite Elements of Standing

 The defendants challenge plaintiffs standing to bring this action. In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343, 95 S. Ct. 2197 (1975). A federal court's jurisdiction can be invoked only when the plaintiff himself has suffered "some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively illegal action. . . ." Id. at 499, quoting Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617, 35 L. Ed. 2d 536, 93 S. Ct. 1146 (1973).

 The complaint must indicate that the injury is indeed fairly traceable to the defendant's acts or omissions. Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 261, 50 L. Ed. 2d 450, 97 S. Ct. 555 (1977); see also Warth v. Seldin, supra, 422 U.S. at 501 (defendant's act or omission must give rise to a "distinct and palpable injury"); Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 14, 33 L. Ed. 2d 154, 92 S. Ct. 2318 (1972) ("a claim of specific present objective harm or a threat of specific future harm"). Moreover, the injury claimed must be likely redressed by a favorable decision by the Court. See Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982), quoting Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 38, 41, 48 L. Ed. 2d 450, 96 S. Ct. 1917 (1976).

 "Although standing in no way depends on the merits of the plaintiff's contention that particular conduct is illegal, e.g., Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968), it often turns on the nature and source of the claim asserted." Warth v. Seldin, supra, 422 U.S. at 500. The actual or threatened injury may exist solely by virtue of statutes creating legal rights, the invasion of which creates standing. See id.; Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 373, 71 L. Ed. 2d 214, 102 S. Ct. 1114 (1982) (citations omitted). Thus, at a minimum, in order to prove standing, plaintiffs must show (1) actual or threatened injury that is arguably within the zone of interests protected or regulated by the law on which the complaint is founded, (2) traceable to the defendant, and (3) amenable to judicial remedy. See Action Alliance of Senior Citizens v. Heckler, 252 U.S. App. D.C. 249, 789 F.2d 931, 936 (D.C. Cir. 1986); Synar v. United States, 626 F. Supp. 1374, 1380 (D.D.C. 1986). In analyzing whether standing requirements have been met, the Court must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint and construe them in favor of the plaintiffs. See Warth v. Seldin, supra, 422 U.S. at 501.

 Prudential considerations also guide a court in determining whether a party properly has standing to assert a claim. See generally Valley Forge Christian College, supra, 454 U.S. at 471. The primary prudential consideration is whether, given the fact that a particular plaintiff has sustained an injury in fact as the result of the defendant's act or omission, the plaintiff should be heard to complain of that injury. See, e.g., Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184, 90 S. Ct. 827 (1970). The question is whether the plaintiff's injury is within the zone of interest afforded by the relevant statute or the Administrative Procedure Act that permits relief. The zone of interest test is a guide for deciding whether, in view of Congress' evident intent to make agency action presumptively reviewable, a particular plaintiff should be heard to complain of a particular agency decision. Clarke v. Securities Industry Association, 479 U.S. 388, 107 S. Ct. 750, 757, 93 L. Ed. 2d 757 (1987).

 In cases where the plaintiff is not itself the subject of the contested regulatory action, the test denies a right of review if the plaintiff's interests are so marginally related to or inconsistent with the purposes implicit in the statute that it cannot reasonably be assumed that Congress intended to permit the suit. 107 S. Ct. at 757. In analyzing the relevant statute, the Supreme Court in Clarke emphasized the importance of understanding Congress' overall purposes. See id. at 758. Unlike a situation in which a plaintiff sues on the basis of a private cause of action within the relevant statute, the zone of interest inquiry involving a claim under § 10(a) of the Administrative ...


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