175 F.3d 178 (1st Cir. 1999), 98-1999, Houlton Citizens' Coalition v. Town of Houlton

Docket Nº:98-1999.
Citation:175 F.3d 178
Party Name:HOULTON CITIZENS' COALITION, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. TOWN OF HOULTON, Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:April 22, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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175 F.3d 178 (1st Cir. 1999)

HOULTON CITIZENS' COALITION, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,


TOWN OF HOULTON, Defendant, Appellee.

No. 98-1999.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 22, 1999

Heard Feb. 2, 1999.

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Robert M. Morris, with whom Steven R. Davis and Carton, Davis & Morris, P.A. were on brief, for appellants.

Michael E. Saucier, with whom Thompson & Bowie was on brief, for appellee.

Before SELYA, STAHL and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

This litigation has its genesis in a waste management scheme devised by the town fathers of Houlton, Maine (the Town). The appellants claim that Houlton's plan--under which the Town by contract designated a single firm as the exclusive hauler of residential waste within its borders, and enacted a flow-control ordinance directing all such waste either to be collected by that firm or to be brought to its transfer station--violates the Commerce Clause, the Takings Clause, the Contract Clause, and the town charter. The district court rejected these importunings. We affirm the judgment below (with a slight modification), but our reasoning differs from the district court's in respect to the principal bone of contention--the Commerce Clause challenge.


As in many small towns across the nation, Houlton residents traditionally dealt with solid waste by depositing it in the town dump or engaging others to do so. On October 17, 1995, state environmental authorities closed the dump. In order to remain compliant with state law, the Town needed to fashion a new way for its residents to deal with solid waste. It thereupon issued a request for proposals (RFP), conducted an open competitive bidding process that resulted in the selection of a local firm (Andino, Inc.) as its exclusive contractor, agreed to provide that firm with a guaranteed trash quota for seven years, and enacted a flow-control ordinance (the 1995 Ordinance) that required all residential solid waste generated within the town limits to be taken to a local transfer site operated by Andino.

In New England, change does not come easily. Asserting that the 1995 Ordinance violated the Commerce Clause, David Condon, a trash disposal operator, sued Andino and the Town. The federal district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the 1995 Ordinance, see Condon v. Andino, Inc., 961 F.Supp. 323, 331-32 (D.Me.1997), and the Town folded; instead of litigating to the bitter end, it revised the law and enacted a new ordinance (the 1997 Ordinance) that put a somewhat different waste management system into effect.

The new plan has two components. The first is the 1997 Ordinance itself. The ordinance requires all generators of residential rubbish within the Town either to use Houlton's chosen contractor to transport their trash, or to haul it themselves. See 1997 Ordinance § 10-507. Although the Town's contractor is permitted to dispose of collected trash at any proper disposal site, residents who choose to self-haul are required to take their refuse to a repository designated by the Town Council.

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See id. § 10-504. The ordinance provides fines and other penalties for noncompliance. See id. § 10-503.

The contract between Andino and the Town constitutes the new scheme's second component. The previous contract between these parties had included, inter alia, a failsafe clause whereby the Town agreed to negotiate with Andino in good faith to keep it as the Town's contractor if a court of competent jurisdiction held the 1995 Ordinance invalid or unenforceable. Purporting to honor its commitment to renegotiate, the Town implemented the 1997 Ordinance by supplementing and amending the preexisting contract, granting Andino the exclusive right to collect third-party residential waste under the 1997 Ordinance, and designating its transfer station as the disposal site for self-haulers.

These modifications did not placate those who yearned for simpler times. Four plaintiffs combined to sue the Town in federal district court. They included Condon, two other local trash haulers (William Faulkner and Fred Spellman), and the Houlton Citizens' Coalition (HCC), an unincorporated nonprofit association formed by Houlton residents. Invoking federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331--there is no other readily apparent jurisdictional basis--the plaintiffs challenged the 1997 Ordinance under, inter alia, the Commerce Clause, the Takings Clause, and the Contract Clause. They also appended a supplemental state-law claim under the town charter. The district court rebuffed their attempt to restrain implementation of the 1997 Ordinance pendente lite, concluding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail on the merits. See Houlton Citizens' Coalition v. Town of Houlton, 982 F.Supp. 40, 46 (D.Me.1997) (HCC I ). The court subsequently granted summary judgment for the Town on the four claims with which we are concerned. See Houlton Citizens' Coalition v. Town of Houlton, 11 F.Supp.2d 105, 112 (D.Me.1998) (HCC II ). This appeal followed. 1


Before we consider the appellants' substantive arguments, we pause to ponder a potential problem: the claim that the Coalition, an unincorporated nonprofit association that was formed, according to the uncontradicted affidavit of its president, specifically "to provide a forum for research, analysis, discussion and public education of civic policy issues related to the public administration of the Town of Houlton, Maine" and "to perform civic public service in this role," lacks standing. See United States v. AVX Corp., 962 F.2d 108, 113-16 (1st Cir.1992) (discussing elements of standing requirement for unincorporated associations).

The Town brings some heavy artillery to this battlefield. Two respected courts recently have held that individual garbage generators lacked standing to challenge schemes similar to Houlton's under the Commerce Clause. See Ben Oehrleins & Sons & Daughter, Inc. v. Hennepin County, 115 F.3d 1372, 1381-82 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 118 S.Ct. 629, 139 L.Ed.2d 609 (1997); Individuals for Responsible Gov't, Inc. v. Washoe County, 110 F.3d 699, 703-04 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 118 S.Ct. 411, 139 L.Ed.2d 315 (1997). These courts emphasized that the purpose of the dormant Commerce Clause is to curtail states' abilities to hinder interstate trade, and that the injury claimed by the individual garbage generators--being compelled to pay higher prices for services they neither required nor desired--was not even marginally related to this purpose. See Ben Oehrleins, 115 F.3d at 1382; Washoe County, 110 F.3d at 703.

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The HCC shares many attributes with the parties found to lack standing in Ben Oehrleins and Washoe County. It is made up of individual trash generators who complain that under the 1997 Ordinance they will be forced to contract with Andino, when previously they could patronize other haulers (presumably at lower prices or on more felicitous terms). Despite this parallelism, however, we need not decide whether we share the outlook of the Ben Oehrleins and Washoe County courts. It is a settled principle that when one of several co-parties (all of whom make similar arguments) has standing, an appellate court need not verify the independent standing of the others. See Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 2100 n. 19, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998); Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 721, 106 S.Ct. 3181, 92 L.Ed.2d 583 (1986); Montalvo-Huertas v. Rivera-Cruz, 885 F.2d 971, 976 (1st Cir.1989). We take refuge behind this principle today.

Here, Faulkner, a co-plaintiff, satisfies both the constitutional requirements and the prudential conditions for standing. He has lost the business of his residential customers in Houlton; that injury can be traced directly to the Town's neoteric waste management scheme; and the injury would be adequately redressed by equitable relief and/or damages against the Town. As a classic plaintiff asserting his own economic interests under the Commerce Clause--a constitutional provision specifically targeted to protect those interests--Faulkner avoids any concerns relative either to jus tertii, see Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975), or to the zone of interests requirement, see Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 475, 102 S.Ct. 752, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982).

We note, moreover, that Faulkner's claim to standing is not damaged because he failed to allege that he hauled garbage out-of-state or planned to do so. In Commerce Clause jurisprudence, cognizable injury is not restricted to those members of the affected class against whom states or their political subdivisions ultimately discriminate. See General Motors Corp. v. Tracy, 519 U.S. 278, 286, 117 S.Ct. 811, 136 L.Ed.2d 761 (1997). Thus, an in-state business which meets constitutional and prudential requirements due to the direct or indirect effects of a law purported to violate the dormant Commerce Clause has standing to challenge that law. See id. at 286-87, 117 S.Ct. 811 (collecting cases); see also Ben Oehrleins, 115 F.3d at 1379 (affirming district court's finding of standing for in-state haulers and landfill operators).

That ends this phase of our inquiry. Because Faulkner has standing to challenge the 1997 Ordinance, we need not decide whether the HCC has standing to mount a challenge in its own right.


The appellants find four fatal flaws in the Town's waste management scheme: (1) it insults the dormant Commerce Clause; (2) it takes private property without just compensation; (3) it...

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