Diamond v. Charles
476 U.S. 54 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54 (1986)

Diamond v. Charles

No. 84-1379

Argued November 5, 1985

Decided April 30, 1986

476 U.S. 54

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Appellee physicians, who provide abortion services in Illinois, filed a class action in Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, as amended, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Appellant pediatrician (hereafter appellant) filed a motion to intervene as a party defendant based on his conscientious objection to abortions and on his status as a pediatrician and as a parent of a minor daughter. The District Court granted the motion without indicating whether the intervention was permissible or as of right. Ultimately, the District Court permanently enjoined the enforcement of certain provisions of the law that impose criminal liability upon physicians for violation of the prescribed standards of care for performing abortions and the requirements for furnishing a patient with particular abortion-related information. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and also permanently enjoined the enforcement of another related provision. The State did not appeal to this Court, but filed a "letter of interest" under this Court's Rule 10.4, stating that its interest was identical to that advanced by it in the lower courts, and essentially coterminous with appellant's position.

Held: Because appellant lacks any judicially cognizable interest in the Illinois Abortion Law, his appeal is dismissed for want of jurisdiction. Pp. 476 U. S. 61-71.

(a) The presence of a disagreement is insufficient, by itself, to meet Art. III's "case" or "controversy" requirement. The party seeking judicial resolution of a dispute must also show that he personally suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the other party's allegedly illegal conduct. Pp. 476 U. S. 61-62.

(b) Illinois' "letter of interest" is insufficient to bring the State into the suit as an appellant with standing to defend the statute's constitutionality in this Court. While the State, as a party below, remains a party under Rule 10.4, that status does not equate with the status of appellant. The State's failure to invoke this Court's jurisdiction leaves the Court without a "case" or "controversy" between appellee physicians and the State. Pp. 476 U. S. 62-64.

Page 476 U. S. 55

(c) Appellant's interests in enforcement of the statute do not permit him to defend it. Only the State has a judicially cognizable interest in defending its criminal statutes. Pp. 476 U. S. 64-65.

(d) Appellant's claims that his professional interests confer standing have no merit. As a pediatrician. he has an interest, but no direct stake, in the abortion process. This abstract concern does not substitute for the concrete injury required by Art. III. Similarly, appellant's claim of conscientious objection to abortion does not provide a judicially cognizable interest. Nor can he maintain the appeal in his capacity as a parent, absent any showing that his daughter is currently a minor or otherwise incapable of asserting her own rights. And he cannot assert any constitutional right of the unborn fetus, since only the State may invoke regulatory measures to protect that interest or the power of the courts when those measures are subject to challenge. Pp. 476 U. S. 65-67.

(e) Neither appellant's status as an intervenor below, whether permissive or as of right, nor the fact that the District Court assessed attorney's fees against him and the State, confers standing to keep the case alive in the absence of the State on this appeal. An intervenor's right to continue a suit in the absence of the party on whose side intervention was permitted is contingent upon the intervenor's showing that he satisfies Art. III's requirements, and appellant has not made such a showing. As to the fee award, Art. III standing requires an injury with a nexus to the substantive character of the statute at issue, and the fee award bears no relation to the Illinois Abortion Law. Pp. 476 U. S. 68-71.

Appeal dismissed. Reported below: 749 F.2d 452.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in Part I of which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 476 U. S. 71. WHITE, J., concurred in the judgment.

Page 476 U. S. 56

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant Eugene F. Diamond is a pediatrician engaged in private practice in Illinois. He seeks to defend before this Court the constitutionality of four sections of the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, as amended. [Footnote 1] These sections impose criminal liability for the performance of an abortion under certain circumstances, and, under other circumstances, require that the woman be provided with particular abortion-related information. The State of Illinois has chosen to absent itself from this appeal, despite the fact that its statute is at stake. Because a private party whose own conduct is neither implicated nor threatened by a criminal statute has no judicially cognizable interest in the statute's defense, we dismiss the appeal for want of jurisdiction.

Page 476 U. S. 57

I

On October 30, 1979, over gubernatorial veto, the Illinois Legislature amended the State's 1975 Abortion Law to provide for increased regulation. 1979 Ill.Laws, Pub. Act 81-1078. That very day appellees, four physicians who provide obstetric, gynecologic, and abortion services in Illinois filed a class action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They alleged a deprivation of rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by the Illinois officials charged with enforcing the Abortion Law. [Footnote 2] Appellees sought declaratory and injunctive relief. [Footnote 3]

The next day, the District Court certified the plaintiff class and temporarily restrained enforcement of the entire statute. On November 8, appellant Diamond filed a motion to intervene as a party defendant, either permissively or as of right, and to be appointed guardian ad litem for fetuses who survive abortion. [Footnote 4] The motion for intervention professed to be

Page 476 U. S. 58

based on Doctor Diamond's conscientious objection to abortions, and on his status as a pediatrician and as a parent of an unemancipated minor daughter. [Footnote 5]

Over appellees' objection, the District Court granted Diamond's motion to intervene. [Footnote 6] The District Court did not indicate whether the intervention was permissive or as of right, and it did not describe how Diamond's interests in the litigation satisfied the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 for intervenor status. The court denied the guardianship motion.

On November 16, the District Court entered a preliminary injunction against a number of sections of the Abortion Law, including §§ 6(1) and 6(4). [Footnote 7] These sections prescribe the

Page 476 U. S. 59

standard of care that must be exercised by a physician in performing an abortion of a viable fetus, [Footnote 8] and of a possibly viable fetus. [Footnote 9] A violator of § 6(1) is subject to a term of imprisonment of between three and seven years and a fine not exceeding $10,000. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38,

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