TransUnion v. Ramirez: The Supreme Court Shifts the Class Action Battlefield Toward State Courts

American Bar Association Class Actions & Derivative Suits

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Article III standing is one of the most significant rubrics to determine a federal lawsuit’s justiciability. The Supreme Court significantly altered the standing calculus in TransUnion v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021), particularly in putative class actions that allege bare statutory violations unaccompanied by actual harm. While some aspects of TransUnion’s fallout are difficult to predict, one thing seems clear: More nationwide class actions will be stuck in state court moving forward.

The Role of Article III Standing

At its very core, the principle of Article III standing is based on the separation of powers that governs the reach of all federal institutions, including federal courts. As the Supreme Court noted in TransUnion, the idea of separation of powers “‘was not simply an abstract generalization in the minds of the Framers [of the Constitution]: it was woven into the document they drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787.’” Id. at 2203 (quoting INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 946 (1983)). Article III confines the power of the federal judiciary to the resolution of cases and controversies, which require that a plaintiff have a “personal stake” in the case. Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 820 (1997). This “personal stake” is the crux of the principle that evolved to be known as “standing.”

Standing is part of the mechanism that ensures that federal courts decide only “the rights of individuals.” Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 166 (1803). It is also part of the mechanism that precludes federal courts from adjudicating hypothetical or abstract disputes and from issuing advisory opinions. For plaintiffs lacking Article III standing, the dismissal or remand of their claim is a likely result.

Republished with permission. The full article for, "TransUnion v. Ramirez: The Supreme Court Shifts the Class Action Battlefield Toward State Courts," was published in the American Bar Association's Class Actions & Derivative Suits Section of Litigation, Summer 2021, Volume 31, Issue 4. (login required)