Access to Justice

Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc.

In Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc., the Supreme Court considered whether a party seeking to intervene in a case under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure must demonstrate that it possesses Article III standing.

Case Summary

Over a decade ago, Steven Sherman attempted to obtain approval from the Town of Chester to develop a nearly 400-acre piece of land he had purchased for $2.7 million. His efforts proved futile, however, because the Town kept changing its zoning regulations, repeatedly forcing Sherman to change his proposal. Sherman eventually sold his property to Laroe Estates, and sued the Town, alleging that it unlawfully prevented him from developing his land and thereby took his property without paying just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Laroe Estates moved to intervene in the lawsuit, asserting the same claims and seeking the same relief as Sherman. A federal district court denied Laroe’s motion to intervene, claiming that Laroe did not have Article III standing and therefore could not assert its claim in the case against the Town. Laroe appealed, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the lower court’s denial of the motion, ruling that Article III standing was not required for intervention. The Town appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

On April 3, 2017, CAC, along with the Institute for Justice, filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Laroe, urging the Court to affirm the lower court’s decision and decline to constitutionalize the law governing intervention. As we explained in our brief, Article III’s limitations on cases and controversies require a plaintiff to establish standing to sue, but do not apply when a litigant seeks to intervene in an already existing case. Since a party seeking to intervene in litigation is, by definition, seeking to enter an existing “case or controversy,” Article III’s requirements have already been satisfied. The Town’s argument cannot be squared with Supreme Court precedent, as the Court has long held that one plaintiff with standing is sufficient to create a case or controversy and has previously permitted third parties to intervene without considering whether they possessed Article III standing.

The Court heard oral argument on April 17, 2017. On June 5, 2017, the Court unanimously held that a party seeking to intervene in an existing case must have Article III standing if the party seeks relief that is not already requested by a plaintiff. The Court remanded the case back to the Second Circuit for further proceedings to determine whether Laroe was, in fact, seeking different relief than the plaintiff. Significantly, the Court did not decide the broader question whether a party seeking to intervene must always possess Article III standing.

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