Equity Requires More Than a Dollar in Injury

The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments yesterday in the appeal against Judge Hanen’s DACA decision. Politico provides a detailed account of Mohar Chanterjee’s oral argument. A single thing stood out to me and so I’ll quote it from Politico (the full transcript isn’t yet on PACER). This is a brief summary from the story. Then, the quote from Texas General Judd Stone II.

Just over a decade ago, President Barack Obama authorized the DACA program to be offered by executive order through the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Wednesday’s argument before that court was held. The 45 minute argument session focused on whether Texas or other states that are suing to stop the program had enough impact to allow them to continue with the court case.

“The relevant question here for summary judgment is whether… [Texas]Has shown at least one dollar of expenses that would be corrected by the elimination of DACA and whether any individual who received such spending under DACAwill leave the United States,” Texas solicitor general Judd Stone II said to the judges.

This is the logic behind standing in legal actions for damages. If you can prove an injury, you can move on to the merits of the case and the remedy. A modest showing of standing does not limit what you can do once you are through the door.

The logic behind equity, however, is different. Below is Paul Miller’s and my explanation of equity, as published in “Getting into Equity” by Notre Dame Law Review. This issue was part of the federal court symposium issue.

Fifth, the analysis helps explain why Supreme Court equity cases often merge considerations such as justiciability merits and remedy.  Although other experts have analyzed these interrelated factors with skill, it’s possible that some equity-conscious people may not be aware of the fact that they are different in equity law.  Justiciability in legal cases is defined as a threshold. Once the plaintiff has passed the threshold, he can seek remedies. It doesn’t matter if the plaintiff barely crossed the threshold.  But in equity it all connects—the broader and deeper the remedy the plaintiff wants, the stronger the plaintiff’s story needs to be.  The interplay between equity and equity is due to equity not having causes for action. While the cause of an action limits the relief available in a legal case, it does not limit the range of remedies that can be sought. However, equity has other limiting principles.  This is the paradox at the core of equitable remedies: These remedies are the most powerful tools for managing parties. Courts often refuse to grant these remedies because they require too much management.  This paradox is made more clear by the fact that equity does not have the strict boundaries or limits of law.

Ernie Young contributed a great contribution to the symposium, which explored equity and standing. It can be found here.

In other words: A dollar worth of injury doesn’t suffice for the type of standing that is required. in equityThis is to finally lift a huge injunction. NB. This blog post does not address the question of whether or not national injunctions can be granted. I have written extensively on these questions. This blog is not about the more general question whether “a penny of expenditures” can be used as a basis for a large injunction. However, the quotation in the story is accurate. Traditional equity answers this narrower question. Please enter no. The plaintiff’s injury should not be considered too severe in order to get equitable remedies.