Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins has continued to garner attention, both in terms of motions to stay the litigation in the pending case and with respect to amicus briefing by parties interested in the issues raised in this important case. On September 9, the Supreme Court set arguments for the case for November 2. As of September 8, more than 30 amicus briefs had been filed in support of both Spokeo, Inc. and Robins.
Notable briefs include those filed by the United States; trade associations in industries governed, in part, by the FCRA and similar consumer protection statutes; consumer rights organizations; credit reporting agencies; and state attorneys general.
In Spokeo, the Supreme Court will address the issue of whether Congress may confer Article III standing by simply authorizing a private right of action based on the violation of a federal statute alone despite a plaintiff having suffered no concrete harm.
Robins sued Spokeo, Inc. for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (FCRA), including that Spokeo published inaccurate information about him and failed to provide third parties with various notices required by the FCRA. Robins’ only injury alleged in his suit was a statutory violation of the FCRA. Spokeo argues that this statutory violation alone is insufficient to confer Article III standing because it does not meet the “irreducible constitutional minimum” to establish standing which requires a plaintiff to have suffered an injury in fact by sustaining an “actual or imminent” harm that is “concrete and particularized.” According to Spokeo, if the Ninth Circuit decision stands, it would eviscerate Article III’s standing requirements by rendering the injury-in-fact requirement an “empty formality.”
The United States filed its amicus brief on behalf of Robins, urging the Supreme Court to reject Spokeo’s argument that a plaintiff must show actual harm in order to meet Article III’s injury-in-fact requirement for standing. In its brief, the United States argued that a violation of a legal right is an injury sufficient to satisfy Article III requirements irrespective of whether the consumer can identify further consequential harms resulting from the violation. The United States pointed to “analogous wrongs,” including common law defamation and federal copyright violations as being redressable without proof of further consequential harm. Specifically, the brief argued that “[m]any such laws … do not require proof that the feared consequential harms have actually materialized in a particular case, but rather allows awards of statutory damages to plaintiffs who establish a deprivation of the statutory right itself but do not prove any further consequential injury.”
Throughout this past summer, various district courts have granted stays in pending cases to await the outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling, including courts in California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Troutman Sanders will continue to track Spokeo-related developments. Amicus briefs are available at http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/spokeo-inc-v-robins/.