City of Evanston v. Regional Transp. Authority

Decision Date10 July 1987
Docket NumberNo. 86-2113,86-2113
Citation825 F.2d 1121
Parties, 17 Envtl. L. Rep. 21,097 CITY OF EVANSTON, a municipal corporation, Joan W. Barr, Ann Rainey and Norris Larson, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, a municipal corporation, et al., Defendants- Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Jack M. Siegel, Siegel & Warnock, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

Harvey Schwartz, Schwartz, Zaban & Jacobs, Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellees.

Before BAUER, Chief Judge, WOOD, Circuit Judge, and PELL, Senior Circuit Judge.


The City of Evanston, its mayor, and two aldermen brought suit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief in order to block the funding, purchase, and use of property at 2424 Oakton Street in Evanston, Illinois, as a bus maintenance facility. The defendants to the suit are the Regional Transportation Authority ("RTA"), the Suburban Bus Division of the RTA (known as "PACE"), the National Steel Service Center, Inc. ("National"), and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration ("UMTA"), an agency of defendant United States Department of Transportation ("DOT"). The property in question was previously owned by National, and used as a manufacturing facility. The RTA received a federal grant from UMTA for the purpose of acquiring the property.

The district court on June 27, 1986, granted the defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to allege the requisite standing to invoke the district court's jurisdiction. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the dismissal was improper.

Because this is an appeal of a granted motion to dismiss, the allegations of fact in the complaint are taken to be true. Doe v. St. Joseph's Hospital, 788 F.2d 411, 414 (7th Cir.1986); Ellsworth v. City of Racine, 774 F.2d 182, 184 (7th Cir.1985), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 1265, 89 L.Ed.2d 574 (1986). These facts, however, will be discussed only as they are necessary to the discussion of the issues.


The plaintiffs claimed in their complaint that the district court had federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Secs. 1331, 2201, based on the Urban Mass Transportation Systems Act, 49 U.S.C. Sec. 1601 et seq. ("UMT Act") and the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 4321 et seq. ("NEPA"). Additionally, in opposition to defendants' motions to dismiss and on appeal, the plaintiffs alleged jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 702.

The district court, addressing only those bases of jurisdiction that appeared on the face of the plaintiffs' complaint, found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit under the UMT Act or NEPA because neither statute created a private right of action. Moreover, the district court ruled that the individual plaintiffs had no standing to sue as taxpayers because the disputed decision was not an exercise of congressional power but was made by the executive branch.

The plaintiffs argue that the allegations of their complaint, if taken as true, establish that the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the use of federal funds to install a facility which they believe is highly detrimental to the environment and health and safety of the city and its citizens.

Article III of the Constitution restricts the power of the federal judiciary to the resolution of "cases" and "controversies." Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 106 S.Ct. 1697, 1703, 90 L.Ed.2d 48 (1986); Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 757-58, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982); Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94-101, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1949-53, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968); see also Northside Sanitary Landfill v. Thomas, 804 F.2d 371, 380-81 (7th Cir.1986). The concept of a party's standing to bring suit "is a component of the case-or-controversy requirement and, as such, bears on the power of a court to entertain a party's claim." Id. at 380-81; Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 471, 102 S.Ct. at 757-58.

In order for a party to have standing to bring suit in federal court, three requirements must be met: (1) the party must personally have suffered an actual or threatened injury caused by the defendant's allegedly illegal conduct, (2) the injury must be fairly traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct, and (3) the injury must be one that is likely to be redressed through a favorable decision. Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 472, 102 S.Ct. at 758-59. "Neither the Administrative Procedure Act, nor any other congressional enactment, can lower the threshold requirements of standing under Art. III." Id. at 487-88 n. 24, 102 S.Ct. at 766-67 n. 24.

Beyond the constitutional requirements, the federal judiciary has also adhered to a set of prudential principles that bear on the question of standing. Thus, this Court has held that "the plaintiff generally must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. [490,] 499 [95 S.Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975) ]. In addition, even when the plaintiff has alleged redressable injury sufficient to meet the requirements of Art. III, the Court has refrained from adjudicating "abstract questions of wide public significance" which amount to "generalized grievances," pervasively shared and most appropriately addressed in the representative branches. Id., at 499-500 . Finally, the Court has required that the plaintiff's complaint fall within "the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question." Association of Data Processing Service Orgs. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153 [90 S.Ct. 827, 830, 25 L.Ed.2d 184] (1970).

Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 474-75, 102 S.Ct. at 760 (footnotes omitted).

A. Standing Under the UMT Act

The UMT Act does not create a private right of action, and none can be implied.

In determining whether a private right of action can be implied, a court must look to the intentions of Congress in enacting the statute. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith v. Curran, 456 U.S. 353, 377-78, 102 S.Ct. 1825, 1838-39, 72 L.Ed.2d 182 (1982); Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 78, 95 S.Ct. 2080, 2088, 45 L.Ed.2d 26 (1975). If the language of the statute and its legislative history do not indicate that the statute was intended to benefit a particular class of persons, then the court need not consider other factors. California v. Sierra Club, 451 U.S. 287, 297-98, 101 S.Ct. 1775, 1781, 68 L.Ed.2d 101 (1981).

The Supreme Court has drawn a distinction between statutes whose language focuses on a right granted to a benefitted class of persons--where a private cause of action is generally found--and statutes framed as a "general prohibition or command to a federal agency"--where a cause of action is seldom implied.

Rapid Transit Advocates v. Southern California Rapid Transit District, 752 F.2d 373, 376 (9th Cir.1985). Compare Universities Research Association v. Coutu, 450 U.S. 754, 101 S.Ct. 1451, 67 L.Ed.2d 662 (1981) (no private right of action under Davis-Bacon Act) with Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, 99 S.Ct. 1946, 60 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) (Court found private right implied by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972).

Several courts that have considered the issue concluded that

[n]either the language nor the legislative history of the UMT Act suggests that the Act was intended to create federal rights for especial benefit of a class of persons but rather was intended to benefit the public at large through a general regulatory scheme to be administered by the Secretary of Transportation.

Lloyd v. Illinois Regional Transportation Authority, 548 F.Supp. 575, 586 (N.D.Ill.1982); see also Rapid Transit Advocates, 752 F.2d at 377; Associated Businesses of Franklin v. Warren County Board, 522 F.Supp. 1015, 1018-20 (S.D.Ohio 1981); Dopico v. Goldschmidt, 518 F.Supp. 1161, 1172-73 (S.D.N.Y.1981), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 687 F.2d 644 (2d Cir.1982). We agree with these courts.

Section 1602(d) of the UMT Act requires that an applicant for a federal grant or loan shall certify that it has provided notice and an opportunity for public hearings and has held such hearings, "unless no one with a significant economic, social, or environmental interest in the matter requests a hearing." 49 U.S.C. Sec. 1602(d)(1). Additionally, the applicant must certify that it has considered the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the project and has found that the project comports with official development plans. 49 U.S.C. Sec. 1602(d)(2), (3). This language does not create rights for a benefitted class of persons; it simply outlines information that an applicant must supply to the Secretary of Transportation as a condition to receiving a grant or loan. The committee report on Sec. 1602(d) supports this interpretation. The committee noted that it "believe[d] that major federally assisted projects in urban areas should reflect full consideration of social and environmental, as well as economic, effects, and that affected citizens should participate effectively in local decision-making." H.R.Rep. No. 1264, 91st Cong., 2d Sess. reprinted in, 1970 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 4092, 4097. However, the committee was concerned that "in many instances a public hearing would serve merely to delay proposed projects, which are already time consuming because of the numerous local and Federal actions involved in carrying out complex projects." Id. The committee suggested that the DOT should "exercise special care in framing regulations which carry out the intent of this requirement without unduly burdening local officials." Id. This legislative history indicates that Congress was interested in ensuring that local officials consider the local effects of their decisions, but not at the...

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