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Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn

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Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn
Argued November 3, 2010
Decided April 4, 2011
Full case name Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, Petitioner v. Kathleen M. Winn, et al.; Gale Garriott, Director, Arizona Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. Kathleen M. Winn, et al.
Docket nos. 09-987
Citations 563 U.S. ___ (more)
131 S.Ct. 1436
Prior history Motion to dismiss granted, unreported (D. Ariz.); reversed sub nom. Winn v. Killian, 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); certiorari granted, 560 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 3324, 3350, 176 L.Ed.2d 1218 (2010)
Argument Oral argument

Taxpayers lack standing under Article III because they are challenging a tax credit, rather than government spending.

9th Circuit Reversed
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Kennedy, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito
Dissent Kagan, joined by Breyer, Sotomayor, Ginsburg

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, 09-987, was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. The case was consolidated with Gale Garriott, Director, Arizona Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. Kathleen M. Winn, et al. (09-991).

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.[1] 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.[1] The decision was reversed by the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that the respondents had standing to sue, citing Flast v. Cohen.[1]

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit.[2] Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy stated “this Court has 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.’”[1] 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.[1] 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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.”[2]

Public opinion

In a national poll, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll found a majority (60 percent) of American voters believe the tax credits support school choice for parents rather than religion.[2] When the results were broken down, Democrats were more likely to indicate they felt as if the tax credits support religion (32%) than Republicans (16%).[2] Another interesting feature was that voters ages 30–44 (those most likely to have children) were more likely to believe the tax credits support parents.[2]

See also


  2. ^ a b c d e f 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

  • U.S. Supreme Court's coverage
    • Oral argument transcripts and audio
  • SCOTUSBlog coverage
  •'s coverage
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