Thursday, May 14, 2015

taxpayer standing

Keith et al. v. Commonwealth, Dept. of Agriculture – May 13, 2015 – Commonwealth Court



Taxpayersheld to have had standing to challenge the Department of Agricultures exemption of nursing mothers from the statutory ban on metal strand flooring and from the statutory requirement of unfettered access to exercise areas.


Taxpayers had standing under  In re Application of Biester, 409 A.2d 848, 852 (Pa. 1979).  Under Biester, taxpayers, even ones not personally aggrieved, may challenge a governmental action provided that they satisfy the following requirements: (1) the governmental action would otherwise go unchallenged, (2) those directly and immediately affected by the complained of expenditures are beneficially affected and not inclined to challenge the action, (3) judicial relief is appropriate, (4) redress through other channels is unavailable, and (5) no other persons are better situated to assert the claim. Flora v. Luzerne Cty., 103 A.3d 125, 132 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014) (emphasis added). The Department asserts that Petitioners are unable to satisfy the second and fifth Biester factors.


The purpose underlying Biester’s relaxation of the general rules regarding standing and their requirement of a substantial, direct, and immediate interest in the matter, is to enable citizens to challenge governmental action which would otherwise go unchallenged in the courts. Faden v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 227 A.2d 619, 621-22 (Pa. 1967). Taxpayer standing “allows the courts, within the framework of traditional notions of ‘standing,’ to add to the controls over public officials inherent in the elective process the judicial scrutiny of the statutory and constitutional validity of their acts.” Pittsburgh Palisades Park, LLC v. Commonwealth, 888 A.2d 655, 661-662 (Pa. 2005) (quoting Biester, 409 A.2d at 851 n.5).




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