Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico
In Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico, ex rel. Barez, 458 U.S. 592, 102 S.Ct. 3260, 73 L.Ed.2d 995 (1982), the Supreme Court articulated the rough boundaries of parens patriae standing.
The state must be more than a "nominal party without a real interest of its own," id. at 600, 102 S.Ct. at 3265; it "must articulate an interest apart from the interests of a particular private parties...." Id. at 607, 102 S.Ct. at 3268-69.
Such quasi-sovereign interests, broadly formulated, "consist of a set of interests that the state has in the well-being of its populace." Id. at 602, 102 S.Ct. at 3266.
In particular, " 'a State has a quasi-sovereign interest in the health and well-being--both physical and economic--of its residents in general.' " Id. at 607, 102 S.Ct. at 3269.
In addition, although the injury from the challenged activity must affect more than just an "identifiable group of individual residents," indirect effects of the injury may be considered.
The Supreme Court suggested that parens patriae standing often occurs in areas where the state "would likely attempt to address the injury through its sovereign lawmaking powers." Id.
In Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico ex rel. Barez, 458 U.S. 592, 102 S.Ct. 3260, 73 L.Ed.2d 995 (1982), the Supreme Court observed that a state may sue as a parens patriae on behalf of its citizens when it "has a quasi-sovereign interest in the health and well-being--both physical and economic--of its residents in general," as long as the state is more than a nominal party. Id. at 607-08, 102 S.Ct. at 3269.
This means that a state may sue "under federal statutes creating benefits or alleviating hardships." Id. at 608, 102 S.Ct. at 3269.
The "State does have an interest, independent of the benefits that might accrue to any particular individual, in assuring that the benefits of the federal system are not denied to its general population." Id.
The Court stated in a footnote, however, that "a State does not have standing as parens patriae to bring an action against the Federal Government." Id. at 610 n. 16, 102 S.Ct. at 3270 n. 16 (citing Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 485-86, 43 S.Ct. 597, 600-01, 67 L.Ed. 1078 (1923)).
In Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico, 458 U.S. 592 (1982), Justice Brennan observed:
The Framers, in establishing original jurisdiction in this Court for suits "in which a State shall be a Party," and Congress, in implementing the grant of original jurisdiction with respect to suits between States, may well have conceived of a somewhat narrower category of cases as presenting issues appropriate for initial determination in this Court than the full range of cases to which a State may have an interest cognizable by a federal court. The institutional limits on the Court's ability to accommodate such suits accentuates the need for more restrictive access to the original docket. 458 U.S. at 611 (Brennan, J., concurring) (citations omitted).
Under the parens patriae doctrine, a State's "quasi-sovereign" interests "consist of a set of interests ... in the well-being of its populace" that are "sufficiently concrete to create an actual controversy between the State and the defendant." (Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc., 458 U.S. at 602.)