TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez
TransUnion, one of the nation’s largest credit reporting companies, employed shoddy procedures that mislabeled thousands of people as terrorists or national security threats in reports that were readily available to their creditors and potential employers. TransUnion then sent confusing and incomplete mailings about its designations when those individuals requested their credit reports. One victim of this practice, Sergio Ramirez, sued TransUnion on behalf of a class of similarly affected individuals, and a jury found that TransUnion willfully violated multiple consumer protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Seeking to overturn the jury’s damages award, TransUnion argued that many of the plaintiffs did not suffer any “concrete” injury that gives them standing to sue under Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
Ruling against TransUnion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explained that Congress passed the FCRA to prevent the harms that result from flawed credit reporting, in part by providing consumers with the means to dispute inaccurate information. The court then concluded that TransUnion created a material risk of harm to those interests through its violations of the FCRA, inflicting a concrete injury on the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court later agreed to review this decision.
CAC filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Court to affirm the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. Our brief makes two key points. First, while TransUnion claims that many of the plaintiffs suffered no “concrete” injury from its mislabeling of them as terrorists or from the confusing mailings it sent them, TransUnion provides no standard for determining what constitutes a “concrete” injury. By dismissing Congress’s decision to vest consumers with certain legal rights in the FCRA, and by asking the Court to engage in a standardless evaluation of “real world” harm, TransUnion’s position would expand the power of the judiciary at the expense of the elected branches, restricting Congress’s authority to define new legal rights and remedies.
Second, our brief explains that it is well within Congress’s power to establish new legal rights that protect Americans from being put at risk of harms that Congress wishes to avert. Article III of the Constitution, from which the requirement of standing derives, was not originally understood to require any specific type of “real world” damage in order to invoke the power of the federal courts. Instead, by limiting the judiciary to resolving “cases” and “controversies,” Article III required only the deprivation of a legal right. It did not require any additional harm beyond the deprivation of that right. As our brief describes, early American legal precedents reflect the principle that every violation of a legal right warrants a remedy, and the Supreme Court has long recognized Congress’s power to create new legal rights through legislation—including legislation that protects individuals from being put in danger of harm. Because TransUnion’s violations of the law caused a material risk of harm to the very interests that Congress sought to protect in the FCRA, the plaintiffs have standing to seek redress for those violations in the courts.
March 10, 2021
CAC files amicus curiae briefSup. Ct. Amicus Br.
March 30, 2021
The Supreme Court hears oral argument