Access to Courts

United States


Taxpayer and Citizen Suits

US v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166 (1974)


Respondent, as a federal taxpayer, brought this suit for the purpose of obtaining a declaration of unconstitutionality of the Central Intelligence Agency Act, which permits the CIA to account for its expenditures "solely on the certificate of the Director . . . ." 50 U. S. C. 403j (b). The complaint alleged that the Act violated Art. I, 9, cl. 7, of the Constitution insofar as that clause requires a regular statement and account of public funds. The District Court's dismissal of the complaint for, inter alia, respondent's lack of standing under Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, was reversed by the Court of Appeals. That court held that respondent had standing as a taxpayer on the ground that he satisfied Flast's requirements that the allegations (1) challenge an enactment under the Taxing and Spending Clause of Art I, 8, and show (2) a "nexus" between the plaintiff's status and a specific constitutional limitation on the taxing and spending power.

Held: Respondent lacks standing [***2] to maintain this suit. Pp. 171-180.

(a) Flast, which stressed the need for meeting the requirements of Art. III, did not "undermine the salutary principle . . . established by Frothingham [v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447] . . . that a taxpayer may not 'employ a federal court as a forum in which to air his generalized grievances about the conduct of government or the allocation of power in the Federal System.'" Pp. 171-174.

(b) Respondent's challenge, not being addressed to the taxing or spending power but to the statutes regulating the CIA's accounting and reporting procedures, provides no "logical nexus" between his status as "taxpayer" and the asserted failure of Congress to require more detailed reports of expenditures of the CIA. Pp. 174-175.

(c) Respondent's claim that without detailed information on the CIA's expenditures he cannot properly follow legislative or executive action and thereby fulfill his obligations as a voter is a generalized grievance insufficient under Frothingham or Flast to show that "he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining a direct injury as the result" of such action. Ex parte Levitt, 302 U.S. 633, 634. Pp. 76-178.