I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Notes on the Confederate memorial lawsuit: The Sons do not appear to have standing to sue

Here, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are filing suit asserting the rights of its members.  They allege a couple of injuries.  One is that some members are descended from or relatives of people buried in the cemetery and have a right of access to it.  There is absolutely no evidence that the University has any intention to do anything about that, but they’ve alleged it.  Another is some sort of right to enjoin the University from placing explanatory plaques near the Confederate statute.  That claim is absurd, not the least because it is literally an attempt to enjoin the University from speaking.  Finally, they claim a right to prevent the University from renaming Confederate Loop to Confederate Drive. One question is whether the Sons of Confederate Veterans have standing.  That is, can they show a particularized injury to their organization such that they have a right to bring suit? The first thing to brush out of the way is the concept of associational standing.  The Mississippi cases are pretty clear that, if a member of an association has standing, the association itself, even if unincorporated, has standing to bring suit.   One case on this point is Mississippi Manufactured Hous. Ass’n v. Bd. of Aldermen of City of Canton, 870 So. 2d 1189, 1193-94 (Miss. 2004).  The SCV complaint has allegations that appear designed to clear this hurdle, alleging its members connections to people buried in the Confederate cemetery, for instance.  I don’t think there’s a real issue about associational standing.  The real question is whether they can show that one or more of their individual members might have standing.

For individual standing, the cases are a little contradictory.  Historically, the Court has taken a very broad approach, allowing even taxpayer standing.  Thus, you get statements that “‘Mississippi’s standing requirements are quite liberal.” Burgess, 814 So.2d at 152 (¶ 13).”  Hudson v. Jones Cnty. Bd. of Sup’rs, 77 So. 3d 1148, 1150-51 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011).  That and other other cases state that Mississippi does not follow the “stringent definition of standing” followed by the United States Supreme Court and that it has been “more permissive in granting standing to parties who seek review of governmental actions.”
However, there is a clear requirement that the plaintiff must have an interest in the subject matter, be adversely effected, and that the effect must be specific to him and different from that experienced by the general public.  Back to Hudson:
“In Mississippi, parties have standing to sue when they assert a colorable interest in the subject matter of the litigation or experience an adverse effect from the conduct of the defendant, or as otherwise provided by law.” Burgess, 814 So.2d at 152–53 (¶ 13) (citation and quotation omitted). “ ‘[C]olorable,’ when used to describe a claim or action, means ‘appearing to be true, valid, or right.’ ” Hall v. City of Ridgeland, 37 So.3d 25, 33 n. 6 (Miss.2010) (quoting Schmidt v. Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, 18 So.3d 814, 827 n. 13 (Miss.2009)).
“[T]o establish standing on grounds of experiencing an adverse effect from the conduct of the defendant/appellee, the adverse effect experienced must be different from the adverse effect experienced by the general public.” Id. at 33–34 (¶ 24).
In Hudson, the plaintiff, a citizen of Jones county who got SNAP benefits, sought to contest the place the county had located its DHS offices.  The Supreme Court held he had no standing:
Hudson does not claim to own any property at or nearby the prospective sites of the county DHS office in either Laurel or Ellisville. Hudson would simply prefer that the Board locate the county DHS office in Laurel instead of Ellisville. Essentially, Hudson argues he has standing to challenge the Board’s decision because he receives SNAP benefits and because he represents the interests of “the unwed mothers, the elderly, the low[-]income [citizens,] and disabled [citizens].” Regarding his representation of single mothers, elderly citizens, low-income citizens, and disabled citizens, Hudson is not an attorney. Although it is a noble sentiment, it is factually incorrect to characterize Hudson as representing people who fit within those categories. Hudson represents himself and no one else. It is unclear why Hudson finds the location of the county DHS office in Ellisville to be an adverse effect—perhaps it will require additional travel time or greater travel expense—but the adverse effect of placing the county DHS office in Ellisville as opposed to Laurel is certainly the same adverse effect that any recipient of SNAP benefits who lives in Laurel. Consequently, that adverse effect must be considered to be the same adverse effect that would be experienced by members of the general public who happen to live in Laurel and receive assistance from the county DHS office.
Taking the allegations in Hudson’s appeal to the circuit court to be true, it is beyond doubt that Hudson will not be able to establish any adverse effect other than that experienced by a member of the general public regarding the Board’s decision to locate the county DHS office in Ellisville. Accordingly, we find that the circuit court was correct when it granted the Board’s motion to dismiss. It follows that we find no merit to Hudson’s appeal. Because Hudson lacked standing to challenge the Board’s decision, any other issues on appeal are rendered moot. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
Hudson v, 77 So. 3d at 1150-51.  There’s similar language in the case City of Jackson v. Greene, 869 So. 2d 1020, 1024 (Miss. 2004):
In Burgess, this Court also concluded that a party challenging a municipal decision under Miss.Code Ann. § 11–51–75 has the burden of “demonstrat[ing] a specific impact or harm felt by him that was not suffered by the general public.” Id. at 153 (citing City of Madison v. Bryan, 763 So.2d 162 (Miss.2000)). That is, the fact that a person resides in a municipality alone is insufficient to confer standing. Because the residents did not show a colorable interest in the subject matter of the controversy and residency in a municipality alone is insufficient to confer standing for purposes of Miss.Code Ann. § 11–51–75, the Court held that the residents did not have standing. Id.
If this lawsuit turned on a decision by the University to deny access the cemetery and the SCV could show it had members with relatives buried there, then that would seem to me to satisfy this standing requirement.  But the real claim here is the change of the name of Confederate Loop, and that the statute prohibiting certain changes in war memorials is violated by that change.  I fail to see how the SCV’s assertion, “We love Confederate stuff” gives them an individual right and injury here distinct from the general public.  I think they’ve got a real standing problem with that claim (and an equally obvious standing problem with their frivolous claim to bar the University from putting up explanatory plaques.  That claim bottoms out to a desire to not have their sleepwalking troubled with actual facts about the cause they hold so dear).
With that covered, what remains is the substantive issue of the merits of the claims themselves.

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