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Oregon Lacks Standing to Sue Legal Services Corp.

(CN) - The state of Oregon lacks standing to challenge the government's enforcement of a "program integrity" regulation on funds used to provide legal services to the poor, the 9th Circuit ruled.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jones had dismissed the case on its merits, but the federal appeals court went a step further, ordering dismissal for lack of standing.

The government created the Legal Services Corp. (LSC) to provide financial support to individuals who can't afford lawyers. The agency achieves this by funding local legal assistance programs.

To receive the money, local programs must maintain "objectivity and independence from any organization that engages in restricted activities." Restricted activities include lobbying, participating in class actions and gerrymandering. This objectivity, or "program integrity," means the recipient must keep its distance - legally, physically and financially - from unrestricted organizations.

Oregon viewed the requirements as overly restrictive, saying they "effectively thwarted its ability to regulate the practice of law in the State of Oregon and to provide legal services to its citizens," the ruling states.

The district court dismissed the claim, in part because the state itself is not regulated by the LSC.

But the federal appeals court in San Francisco determined that the case lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.

Judge Smith noted that the U.S. Supreme Court "has expressly found that a state does not have standing 'to protect her citizens from the operation of federal statutes.'"

Smith also determined that Oregon's allegations "do not rise to the level of a concrete, particularized, actual or imminent injury against the state itself, that is independent from alleged harm to private parties."

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