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To have standing to sue, a plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that he has suffered a distinct injury and establish a chain of causation linking that injury to actions taken by the defendant.
In the case of Allen v. Wright, the Wright family and the parents of other black public school children brought a class action suit against the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Wright argued that the failure of the IRS to deny tax-exempt status to racially segregated private schools had injured the children by creating a climate of stigma against them and that the policy effectively encouraged the existence of segregated schools.
The outcome of the case turned on whether the plaintiffs had standing. The United States Supreme Court ultimately concluded that the parents had failed to allege a sufficiently personal injury on the first ground and failed to demonstrate a chain of causation showing that the children’s inability to attend desegregated schools was fairly traceable to the IRS’s conduct.
The decision was far from unanimous, but it nevertheless reaffirms the requirements of injury, causation, and redressability for standing in federal courts under Article III.