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PU Johnson Case Legal Memorandum

PU Johnson Case Legal Memorandum


Suppose that in June 2022, the following complaint was filed with the Federal District Court in Metropolitan City:

  1. This court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. section 1331 and 42 U.S.C section 1983 because it involves a significant Federal question, namely, whether the Defendant’s actions infringe upon the liberties secured by the United States Constitution.
  2. Plaintiff Evans Johnson is the proprietor of Midtown Meats and Deli, a full service butcher featuring a range of meat and deli products.
  3. Defendant United States Department of Agriculture operates a program called “Food Coupons.”Under the program, low-income individuals are eligible to receive a kind of official coupon that they may use like cash to purchase groceries from participating grocers. Grocers who accept Food Coupons are able to redeem the coupons for cash payments by the Department.
  4. Johnson’s store participates in the Food Coupon program and routinely accepts Food Coupons from customers. Food Coupons have typically made up 35% of Johnson’s total sales.
  5. Three years ago, Johnson began carrying halal meats. Halal meats are prepared according to Islamic religious principles, and many Muslims will not eat non-halal meat. Because of the special processing involved, halal meat is more expensive than non-halal meat. Midtown Meats is the only retail source of halal meat in a ten block radius.
  6. Most of Johnson’s customers for halal meat are recent refugees from the predominantly Muslim nation of Sudrea. Most of these customers are low-income people: they live in public housing near Johnson’s store and have relied on Food Coupons to purchase their groceries (including halal meat) from Johnson.
  7. That changed on June 1, 2021, when the Department issued the following Food Coupon program regulation: “In the event that a store participating in the Food Coupon program offers two or more similar food products of substantially the same nutritional value, Food Coupons may only be used to purchase the less expensive of the offered choices. For example, if a store offers three brands of skim milk and there is no significant nutritional difference between the three brands, Food Coupons may only be used for the least expensive of the three. Similarly, if a store offers two brands of ground beef that are otherwise nutritionally identical, Food Coupons may only be used to purchase the less expensive meat.”
  8. Notice of this regulation was issued to all Food Coupon users and participating grocers.
  9. Since the notice was issued, Johnson has seen a drop in his sales of halal meat as well as a drop in the total number of customers coming into his store. Johnson attributes these declines to the fact that many of his Sudreanese customers are unable to use Food Coupons to purchase the more costly halal meat.
  10. This loss of business has been particularly painful for Johnson in light of the fact that construction of the Metropolitan City Light Rail system, begun in June 2021 and ongoing, has disrupted traffic on the street in front of Midtown Meats, further reducing business.
  11. Johnson’s store has been pushed to the edge of financial ruin. Without relief from this Court, he will be forced to go out of business, leaving his Sudreanese customers with no easily accessible source of meat appropriate to their religious beliefs.

Count I: Constitutional Violations

  1. The Department’s regulation discriminates against Sudreanese people who rely on the Food Coupon program and denies them the ability to freely practice their religion, in violation of the liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
  2. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that this Court issue an injunction preventing the Department from enforcing the Department’s regulation and requiring the Department to notify all Food Coupon customers that purchases of more costly halal meat is permitted under the terms of the Food Coupon program.

In response to this complaint, the Department’s lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that Johnson lacks standing. Judge MacKaye asks you for a memo analyzing whether he should grant the motion. He asks you to identify the likely arguments on both sides and your recommendation as to how he should rule. Write a concise memo responding to the judge’s request. Rely only on the authorities that we have studied this semester and limit your analysis to the questions of standing reasonably raised by the facts. Do not analyze the underlying merits issues or the prohibition on taxpayer standing. Your memo need not include a separate facts section. However, if you believe additional facts are required to provide a complete analysis of the standing issues raised by the facts, tell Judge MacKaye what facts are needed and explain how they would affect your analysis. 

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