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Baird v. Norton

ELR Citation: 32 ELR 20099
Nos. No. 99-1822, 266 F.3d 408/(6th Cir., 09/14/2001)

The court holds that two Michigan state legislators lack standing to challenge the Secretary of the Interior's approval of gaming compacts between the state of Michigan and four Native American tribes. The legislators—one a member of the state house, and the other a member of the state senate—claimed that the compacts were never properly entered into by the state because the state legislature followed unconstitutional procedures in considering the compacts. According to the legislators, approval of the gaming compacts requires approval by the state legislature through the enactment of legislation, which requires a majority of the members of each state legislative chamber to vote in favor of the measure. However, the state legislature approved the compacts through the passage of a concurrent resolution, which only requires a majority of the votes cast, rather than a majority of all members' votes.

The court first holds that the state legislature's failure to follow procedural safeguards required by the state constitution prior to a vote on legislation did not result in an injury-in-fact to the legislators sufficient for standing purposes. The procedural safeguards are designed to preclude last minute legislation and to provide notice to the public of legislation under consideration, not to protect individual state legislators. Because of the failure to follow the procedural safeguards, the legislators have a generalized grievance shared by all state residents, but such a grievance does not give them standing to sue. The court also holds that the legislators have not suffered a vote-nullification injury sufficient to give them standing to sue. For legislators to have standing as legislators, they must possess votes sufficient to have either defeated or approved the measure at issue. Here, only one member of the state house of representatives and one member of the state senate seek relief. The state constitution may require a majority of all members' votes for legislation to be approved, but it does not require unanimity. Thus, although the house member's power was diluted through the use of the concurrent resolution, she suffered no injury that satisfies the standing requirements. Likewise, the state senator's vote was not nullified because the concurrent resolution passed the state senate by a majority of all members and, thus, satisfied the state constitutional requirements.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Kevin J. Moody
Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone
120 N. Washington Sq., Lansing MI 48933
(517) 487-2070

Counsel for Defendants
Joan E. Meyer, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
330 Ionia Ave. NW, Ste. 501, Grand Rapids MI 49503
(616) 456-2404

Moore, J. Before Clay, J., and Rice, ** J., concurring separately.

** The Honorable Walter Herbert Rice, Chief United States District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio, sitting by designation.