Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn

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Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued November 3, 2010
Decided April 4, 2011
Full case name Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, Petitioner v. Kathleen M. Winn, et al.[1]
Docket nos. 09-987
Citations 563 U.S. 125 (more)
131 S. Ct. 1436; 179 L. Ed. 2d 523; 2011 U.S. LEXIS 2612
Argument Oral argument
Case history
Prior Motion to dismiss granted, Winn v. Killian, No. 00-cv-287, 2001 WL 37120490 (D. Ariz. Feb. 27, 2001); reversed, 307 F.3d 1011 (9th Cir. 2002); rehearing denied sub nom., Hibbs v. Winn, 321 F.3d 911 (9th Cir. 2003); affirmed and remanded, 542 U.S. 88 (2004); dismissed on different ground, 361 F. Supp. 2d 1117 (D. Ariz. 2005); reversed sub nom., Winn v. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, 562 F.3d 1002 (9th Cir 2009); affirmed en banc, 586 F.3d 649 (9th Cir 2009); cert. granted, 560 U.S. 924 (2010).
Taxpayers lack standing under Article III because they are challenging a tax credit, rather than government spending. United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
Majority Kennedy, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito
Dissent Kagan, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor
Laws applied
U.S. Const. art. III

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, 563 U.S. 125 (2011), is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States involving taxpayer standing under Article Three of the United States Constitution.[2]

A group of Arizona taxpayers challenged a state law providing tax credits to people who donate to school tuition organizations providing scholarships to students attending private or religious schools.[2] The taxpayers claimed a violation of the Establishment Clause. The District Court dismissed the case, holding that the taxpayers did not state a valid claim.[2] The decision was reversed by the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that the respondents had standing to sue, citing Flast v. Cohen.[2]

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, in an opinion delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit.[3] The Court stated that it had "rejected the general proposition that an individual who has paid taxes has a 'continuing, legally cognizable interest in ensuring that those funds are not used by the Government in a way that violates the Constitution.'"[2] Ultimately, the Supreme Court found that any damages or harm claimed by the taxpayers by virtue of simply being a taxpayer would be pure speculation because the issue at hand was a tax credit and not a government expenditure.[2] Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Thomas.

In her dissent, Justice Kagan said "cash grants and targeted tax breaks are means of accomplishing the same government objective—to provide financial support to select individuals or organizations." She further argued: "taxpayers should be able to challenge the subsidy."[2] The dissent was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Bruce Peabody, a political science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, remarked "the case brought out four dissents, a signal that those justices were prepared to decide the substantive issue."[3] Equally, Peter Woolley, professor of political science and director of the PublicMind Poll, posited "in making this ruling on such narrow grounds, the court virtually guarantees that plaintiff in one guise or another will be back another day."[3]

See also


  1. ^ The case was decided together with Gale Garriott, Director, Arizona Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. Kathleen M. Winn, et al. (09-991).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, 563 U.S. 125 (2011).
  3. ^ a b c Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll, ["Public Blesses Arizona Christian Tuition"] press release (April 4, 2011)

Further reading

  • Garnett, Nicole Stelle (2011). "A Winn for Educational Pluralism". Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 11-25. SSRN 1884241.
  • Zelinsky, Edward A. (2011). "Winn and the Inadvisability of Constitutionalizing Tax Expenditure Analysis". Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 339. SSRN 1857548.

External links

  • Text of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, 563 U.S. 125 (2011) is available from:  CourtListener  Google Scholar  Justia  Oyez (oral argument audio)  Supreme Court (slip opinion) 
  • U.S. Supreme Court's coverage
    • Oral argument transcripts and audio
  • SCOTUSBlog coverage
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