Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MAPPS Lawsuit - a lawyer's perspective

As a lawyer with an interest in geospatial technology, I have felt for a while that I should comment on the MAPPS lawsuit. I have been reluctant to do so for a number of reasons, the main one being that it was an Administrative Law case (involving implementation of laws and rulemaking). Administrative Law cases can be rather dry, which much emphasis on procedure and legislative intent, and the whole case can turn on the court's interpretation of a word or a phrase. Important, no doubt, to the spatial community. But difficult to comment on from a legal standpoint without a lengthy analysis of all relevant documents.

However, Judge Ellis' recent granting of summary judgment in favor of the government did raise some interesting legal questions. Notwithstanding that both sides claimed to have achieved a victory in the case, the opinion does little other than to find that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case. Since standing is an important element in these type of cases, it is not surprising that it was an issue here. It was surprising, however, at how relatively easily Judge Ellis was able to dismiss the plaintiffs for lack of standing, and on what grounds. Particularly, since MAPPS claims to expected the challenge.

One question that comes to mind is whether there are parties that can satisfy the requirements for standing as set forth by Judge Ellis in his opinion? If so, one wonders why they were not included in the suit initially? In any event, it will be interesting to see what step MAPPS takes next.

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