Spokeo: The Quasi-Hohfeldian Plaintiff and the Nonfederal Federal Question

Michael T. Morley
Volume 25, 
Issue 3


In Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins,1 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016). the Supreme Court held that violations of a plaintiff’s rights under a federal statute do not necessarily constitute injuries-in-fact for Article III purposes that allow the plaintiff to sue in federal court. 2 Id. at 1550. This “interesting question” has loomed over the federal judiciary for the past quarter-century,3 Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction § 2.3, at 69 (6th ed. 2012) (“The interesting question concerning injuries to statutory rights is how far Congress can expand standing ….”); see also Richard H. Fallon, Jr. et al., Hart & Wechsler’s The Federal Courts and the Federal System 142 (6th ed. 2009) (“[U]ncertainty surrounds the question of how much authority Congress possesses to define judicially cognizable injuries that will provide Article III standing.”).  ever since the Supreme Court laid the foundation for modern standing doctrine in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife. 4 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992).  Under Spokeo, to bring a federal statutory claim in federal court, a plaintiff must demonstrate not only that the statute was violated, but also that the violation caused it to suffer a concrete injury-in-fact according to the federal judiciary’s standards.5 Spokeo, 136 S. Ct. at 1548.


Hohfeldian Particularized and concrete Yes
Quasi-Hohfeldian Particularized, but not concrete No
Non-Hohfeldian Not particularized, not concrete No


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