Can Corporations File a Citizen Suit ?
A corporation may, in some instances, be accorded attributes of a citizen. (See Neirbo Co. v. Bethlehem Corp. (1939) 308 U.S. 165, 169 60 S. Ct. 153, 155, 84 L. Ed. 167, 171, 128 A.L.R. 1437 corporation treated as "citizen" for diversity of citizenship jurisdiction.)
However, where a corporation attempts to maintain a citizen suit, it is appropriate to require the corporation to demonstrate it should be accorded the attributes of a citizen litigant, since it generally is to be expected that a corporation will act out of a concern for what is expedient for the attainment of corporate purposes (see Marsili v. Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. (1975) 51 Cal. App. 3d 313, 322-325 124 Cal. Rptr. 313, 79 A.L.R.3d 477), rather than by virtue of the neutrality of citizenship (see Carsten v. Psychology Examining Com., supra, 27 Cal. 3d at p. 799; Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc., Local Assessment Com. v. County of Kern, supra, 44 Cal. App. 4th at p. 354).
When a nonhuman entity claims the right to pursue a citizen suit, the issue must be resolved in light of the particular circumstances presented, including the strength of the nexus between the artificial entity and human beings and the context in which the dispute arises. (See Roberts v. Gulf Oil Corp. (1983) 147 Cal. App. 3d 770, 797 195 Cal. Rptr. 393.)
Among the factors which may be considered are whether the corporation has demonstrated a continuing interest in or commitment to the subject matter of the public right being asserted (see Environmental Protection Information Center v. Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, supra, 43 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1019;
American Friends Service Committee v. Procunier (1973) 33 Cal. App. 3d 252, 255 109 Cal. Rptr. 22); whether the entity is comprised of or represents individuals who would be beneficially interested in the action (see Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., supra, 190 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 1521-1522);
whether individual persons who are beneficially interested in the action would find it difficult or impossible to seek vindication of their own rights (see Driving Sch. Assn. of Cal. v. San Mateo Union High Sch. Dist. (1992) 11 Cal. App. 4th 1513, 1519 14 Cal. Rptr. 2d 908;
McDonald v. Stockton Met. Transit Dist., supra, 36 Cal. App. 3d at p. 443); and whether prosecution of the action as a citizen's suit by a corporation would conflict with other competing legislative policies (see Nowlin v. Department of Motor Vehicles, supra, 53 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 1538-1539).