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John Roberts on Education

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)


Taxpayers can't fight AZ tax credit for religious schools.

Justice Roberts joined the Court's decision on ARIZONA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL v. WINN on Apr 4, 2011:

AZ law allows tax credits for contributions made to school tuition organizations (STOs). The STO then provides scholarships to students attending private schools, including religious schools. AZ taxpayers sued the state, challenging this law on Establishment [of religion] Clause grounds.

HELD: Delivered by KENNEDY, joined by ROBERTS, SCALIA, THOMAS & ALITO

The plaintiff taxpayers lack standing to sue, because no case exists that a federal court may decide. The plaintiffs cannot show injury particularized to them, as opposed to any other taxpayer. The taxpayer-plaintiffs cannot prove that the AZ legislature raised their tax burden in order to provide this tax credit. Also, since the credit takes students out of the public schools, there is a cost savings to the State. Nor can the plaintiffs show that, if a court enjoined AZ from providing the tax credit to others, state legislators would use the increased revenue to lower the plaintiffs' tax burdens. To say that Arizonans benefiting from the tax credit are paying their state taxes to an STO assumes that all income is government property even if it has not come into the tax collector's hands.

CONCURRED: SCALIA concurs; joined by THOMAS

I concur in the judgment, but would repudiate the Court's anomalous Flast v. Cohen precedent that allowed a taxpayer lawsuit to proceed. It is irreconcilable with the Court's other decisions on cases or controversies suitable for the federal courts under Article III.

DISSENT: KAGAN dissents; joined by GINSBURG, BREYER & SOTOMAYOR

Tax credits can achieve the same result of supporting a religion as do payments from the treasury, and no principled distinction exists between them. Sometimes no one but a taxpayer has requisite standing to challenge government support of religion under the Establishment Clause.
Source: Supreme Court case 11-AZ-WINN argued on Nov 3, 2010

Other Justices on Education: John Roberts on other issues:
Samuel Alito
Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
John Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Sonia Sotomayor
Clarence Thomas

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Sandra Day O'Connor
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Page last updated: Mar 08, 2014