188 P.3d 1222 (N.M. 2008), 30,415, ACLU of New Mexico v. City of Albuquerque

Docket Nº:30,415.
Citation:188 P.3d 1222, 144 N.M. 471, 2008 -NMSC- 045
Opinion Judge:BOSSON, Justice.
Party Name:AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW MEXICO and Peter G. Simonson, Plaintiffs-Petitioners, v. CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, Defendant-Respondent.
Attorney:Kennedy & Han, P.C., Paul J. Kennedy, Sanders & Westbrook, P.C., Maureen A. Sanders, ACLU of New Mexico, George L. Bach, Jr., The Revo Law Firm, P.A., Roger I. Smith, Ousama M. Rasheed Law Office, Ousama M. Rasheed, Albuquerque, NM, for Petitioners., Office of the City Attorney, Robert M. White, ...
Case Date:June 27, 2008
Court:Supreme Court of New Mexico
 
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Page 1222

188 P.3d 1222 (N.M. 2008)

144 N.M. 471, 2008 -NMSC- 045

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW MEXICO and Peter G. Simonson, Plaintiffs-Petitioners,

v.

CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, Defendant-Respondent.

No. 30,415.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

June 27, 2008

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Kennedy & Han, P.C., Paul J. Kennedy, Sanders & Westbrook, P.C., Maureen A. Sanders, ACLU of New Mexico, George L. Bach, Jr., The Revo Law Firm, P.A., Roger I. Smith, Ousama M. Rasheed Law Office, Ousama M. Rasheed, Albuquerque, NM, for Petitioners.

Office of the City Attorney, Robert M. White, Peter H. Pierotti, Albuquerque, NM, for Respondent.

[144 N.M. 473] OPINION

BOSSON, Justice.

{1} This appeal raises questions as to the continued viability of New Mexico's enduring justiciability principles that govern who has standing to bring suit in our state courts. Our current standing doctrine generally requires litigants to allege three elements: (1) they are directly injured as a result of the action they seek to challenge; (2) there is a causal relationship between the injury and the challenged conduct; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. These requirements are known in short form as injury in fact, causation, and redressability, and are derived from federal standing jurisprudence.

{2} Plaintiffs seek to mount a pre-enforcement constitutional challenge to an ordinance passed by the City of Albuquerque, and they ask this Court to perform a comprehensive overhaul of New Mexico standing jurisprudence for them to do so. Specifically, Plaintiffs encourage us to abandon the traditional three federally-derived elements and instead implement an approach whereby courts would evaluate four “prudential factors" to determine whether a litigant has standing to sue. We do not find occasion in this case to depart from our traditional standing analysis, and therefore we affirm the Court of Appeals' decision holding that Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the City's ordinance.

BACKGROUND

{3} The ACLU and two named Plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive

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[144 N.M. 474] relief challenging the constitutionality of the City's Ordinance Bill No. O-05-113, which amended the City's ordinance providing for civil forfeiture of vehicles driven by individuals with multiple previous DWI arrests or convictions. This Court upheld the constitutionality of the previous version of the Ordinance in City of Albuquerque ex rel. Albuquerque Police Dep't v. One (1) 1984 Chevy Ut., 2002 -NMSC- 014, 132 N.M. 187, 46 P.3d 94.The challenged amendments provide for civil forfeiture of vehicles driven by individuals who have been arrested for DWI with no previous offenses. The Plaintiffs filed their complaint on the same day the challenged amendments became effective and obtained an injunction; thus, the City has never enforced the Ordinance as amended.

{4} The amended Ordinance declares that a vehicle “[o]perated by a person who has been arrested for an offense of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs" is a nuisance and subjects such a vehicle to “temporary seizure or permanent forfeiture." Albuquerque, N.M., Ordinance § 7-6-2 and -4 (16th Council). The owner of a seized vehicle may request an administrative hearing at which a city hearing officer “shall only determine whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to seize the vehicle." Section 7-6-5(D)(8). If the hearing officer determines that there was probable cause to seize the vehicle, “proceedings for an order for forfeiture shall be instituted promptly." Id.

{5} The City filed several motions, including a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, and Plaintiffs filed a motion for permanent injunction. The district court denied the City's motion to dismiss and granted Plaintiffs' motion for permanent injunction, finding that the Ordinance provides insufficient procedural due process. Specifically, the court found that the Ordinance is constitutionally defective because it states that the only determination to be made at the administrative hearing is “whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to seize the vehicle," as opposed to whether there was probable cause for the arrest. The City appealed the district court's decision, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the ordinance. See ACLU v. City of Albuquerque (ACLU II), 2007 -NMCA- 092, 142 N.M. 259, 164 P.3d 958. We granted certiorari to clarify the law of standing as it applies in this case. We agree with the Court of Appeals that Plaintiffs lack standing, and we therefore affirm.

DISCUSSION

{6} At the inception of the case, there were three Plaintiffs, the ACLU and two individuals. One of the individual plaintiffs was dismissed by stipulation, leaving Peter Simonson, the executive director and a member of the ACLU, as the remaining named Plaintiff. In the complaint, Simonson alleged that his “rights, status or other legal relations are affected by [the Ordinance]." The ACLU alleged that it had “standing to vindicate the public interest in matters of great public ... importance," and to “vindicate the interest of its members who will be subject to [the Ordinance], and whose rights, status or other legal relations are affected by [the Ordinance]." Whether Plaintiffs have standing to challenge the Ordinance is a matter of law subject to de novo review. See Forest Guardians v. Powell, 2001 -NMCA- 028, ¶ 5, 130 N.M. 368, 24 P.3d 803.

The Law of Standing

{7} The Court of Appeals began its standing analysis by stating: “Under our Constitution, in order to have standing, a plaintiff must establish that there is (1) an injury in fact, (2) a causal relationship between the injury and the challenged conduct, and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." ACLU II, 2007 -NMCA- 092, ¶ 7, 142 N.M. 259, 164 P.3d 958 (quoted authority omitted). Plaintiffs take issue with this statement, arguing that the Court of Appeals incorrectly characterized standing as a constitutional requirement. According to Plaintiffs, while standing in federal court is a jurisdictional threshold set by Article III of the United States Constitution, limiting the subject matter jurisdiction of federal courts to “cases and controversies," standing in state court is an entirely different matter. Under the New Mexico Constitution, state courts are courts of general jurisdiction,

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[144 N.M. 475] and our constitution contains no analogue to the federal “cases and controversies" language. See John Does I through III v. Roman Catholic Church, 1996 -NMCA- 094, ¶ 26, 122 N.M. 307, 924 P.2d 273. Thus, Plaintiffs claim that standing in state court is a prudential matter rather than a jurisdictional requirement dictated by our constitution.

{8} Based on the proposition that standing in state court is a prudential matter, Plaintiffs argue for a fundamental revision of our law of standing. They advocate an abandonment of the three federally-derived traditional standing requirements-injury in fact, causation, and redressability-which are borrowed to a large degree from federal standing jurisprudence. In place of those requirements, Plaintiffs would have us adopt four “prudential factors," drawn from prior New Mexico appellate decisions on standing. These factors are: (1) the degree of potential harm to the plaintiff and the seriousness of the constitutional or legal challenge; (2) the public importance of the issue; (3) the extent to which the plaintiff can bring to bear the concrete adverseness that will sharpen the issue for the court; and (4) with respect to organizational plaintiffs, the degree of difficulty in obtaining individual plaintiffs to step forward on an issue of public importance. According to Plaintiffs, our state courts should evaluate and weigh these factors in deciding whether a plaintiff has standing to sue in a given case.

{9} We agree with Plaintiffs that standing in our courts is not derived from the state constitution, and is not jurisdictional.1 As we recognized in New Mexico Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson, 1999 -NMSC- 005, ¶ 12, 126 N.M. 788, 975 P.2d 841,“New Mexico state courts are not subject to the jurisdictional limitations imposed on federal courts by Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution." Indeed, this Court has exercised its discretion to confer standing and reach the merits in cases where the traditional standing requirements were not met due to the public importance of the issues involved. See Baca v. N.M. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 2002 -NMSC- 017, ¶ 4, 132 N.M. 282, 47 P.3d 441 (stating that the validity of the Concealed Handgun Carry Act raised a constitutional question of great public importance, and electing to confer standing on that basis); State ex rel. Sego v. Kirkpatrick, 86 N.M. 359, 363, 524 P.2d 975, 979 (1974) (constitutionality of partial vetoes by the Governor was a matter of substantial public interest); John Does I through III, 1996 -NMCA- 094, ¶ 27, 122 N.M. 307, 924 P.2d 273 (noting that because the absence of standing in such cases did not deprive this Court of jurisdiction to decide the matter, the denial of standing could not have been based on constitutional limitations on the court's power). Thus, the Court of Appeals' suggestion that standing is constitutionally based, though perhaps grounded in similar statements from past cases, misapprehends the true nature of standing in state court as compared to federal court.2See generally Helen Herschkoff, State Courts and the “Passive Virtues" : Rethinking the Judicial Function, 114 Harv. L.Rev. 1833 (2001) (discussing the difference between standing in state courts and...

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