Acton Institute Powerblog

This Guy Has No Standing

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In an attempt to oppose legislative action on tort reform, Nebraska Democratic State Senator Ernie Chambers “filed a lawsuit against God in Douglas County Court.”

“The Constitution requires that the courthouse doors be open, so you cannot prohibit the filing of suits,” Chambers says. “Anyone can sue anyone they choose, even God.”

I don’t think it quite works that way. In order to have standing to bring a suit, you not only have to be affected, there has to be “a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision, which means that the prospect of obtaining relief from the injury as a result of a favorable ruling is not too speculative.”

Somehow I don’t think God is taking orders from the Douglas County Court. As he said in another (perhaps not so altogether different) context, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” and “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

My immediate reaction to hearing the case and that it had to do with tort reform was that the guy must be providing an example of a completely idiotic and frivolous lawsuit in order to spur action on tort reform. I never thought he’d be opposing it! There’s likely to be a backlash to outlaw this sort of stunt and all kinds of other frivolous litigation.

Update: The Volokh Conspiracy has a link to a case brought against “Satan and his staff,” in which the case was dismissed for similar reasons: “the Court has serious doubts that the complaint reveals a cause of action upon which relief can be granted by the court. We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Dale S. J. Milne

    I always liked Senator Chambers as an “agent of wakefulness.” With him around, other Senators could not pursue absolutely conformist policies without considering what wild charge Chambers might show up with. I knew some of the things he was doing were, if not grandstanding, perhaps not as sincerely intended for serious acceptance as some people took them to be. *But he did get people to pay attention and think of alternatives.* Kids like me liked to see the cages rattled where the most conformist and out-of-touch people resided. Where else would that be but in political office buildings!

    I wonder if “The Unicameral” would have half the difficulties with both Chambersesque and non-Chambersesque opposition — and do less back-tracking! — if 90% of its members had even a 10% understanding of the rationale behind and the need for a balancing, checking, second camera. A second or even third chamber would bog down some members’ wilder efforts , and show by its approval which cries were to be taken more seriously. I’ve studied the arguments for a unicameral. All the difficulties of which the Federalist Papers warned us have found life in that body.

    Ernie Chambers is one of those quixotic not idiotic, vivivorous not frivolous, life-enriching characters who will, if we wait long enough, be seen to have taken *both* sides of an issue. How staid but (more) boring the Unicameral would be without him.