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52 Emory L.J. 771 (2003)
Taxpayers in Court: A Systematic Study of a (Misunderstood) Standing Doctrine

handle is hein.journals/emlj52 and id is 783 raw text is: TAXPAYERS IN COURT: A SYSTEMATIC STUDY OF A
Nancy C. Staudt*
When urban planners in Northern California first proposed a bridge to link
Matin County and the City of San Francisco, taxpayers objected arguing the
project was a colossal waste of public money.' They apparently believed boats
were a sufficient means of transportation to cross the bay. The taxpayers failed
in their efforts to block the construction of this bridge-the Golden Gate
Bridge-and in hindsight this was a good decision by the federal district court
judge The case, however, is an example of what taxpayers, since at least
1865, have sought in federal court: injunctions to halt government spending
out of fear of the tax consequences that would follow or because of ideological
objections to the spending project at issue.
The earliest taxpayer challenges, in the late nineteenth century, were to
spending projects that most citizens today support-subsidies for road
construction,3 utilities,4 and national parks.5 From that time forward, taxpayers
have invoked their right to sue in federal court as a means to challenge a
. Professor of Law, Washington University. I owe thanks to Susan Appleton, Lee Epstein, Pauline Kim,
Ron Levin, the participants in the Washington University Workshop on Empirical Research in the Law
(WERL), the Washington University Law School faculty workshop, and the 2002 Critical Tax Theory
Workshop at Tulane University Law School.
1 Garland Co. v. Filmer, 1 F. Supp. 8 (N.D. Cal. 1932) (arguing that the Golden Gate Bridge and
Highway district south to impose a tax in violation of the Due Process Clause and issue $35,000,000 in
municipal bonds would violate the Contracts Clause).
2 id. at 13-16.
3 See, e.g., Mitchell v. Stephens, 285 F. 756 (S.D. Cal. 1922) (challenging state sale of municipal bonds
for the construction of state highway as violation of federal statutory law).
4 See. e.g., Mo. Public Service Co. v. City of Concordia, 8 F. Supp. I (W.D. Mo. 1934) (discussing
private electricity provider's challenge to city operated utility as violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal
Protection Clause); Kiefer v. City of Idaho Falls, 19 F.2d 538, 540 (D. Idaho 1927) (challenging city contracts
with water supply company as contrary to certain provisions of the Constitution); Vonherberg v. City of
Seattle, 20 F.2d 247, 247-48 (W.D. Wash. 1927) (challenging illegal loans made to Puget Sound Power &
Light Company).
5 See, e.g., United States v. .8677 Acre of Land in Richmond County, 42 F. Supp. 91, 91-93 (E.D.S.C.
1941) (taking of private and city owned property for purposes of constructing a recreational center).

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