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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

9th Circuit: Plaintiffs may proceed with citizenship status claims

Courts Ninth Circuit Appellate Of Interest to Non-US Persons State Issues

Courts

On October 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of civil rights claims for lack of standing, holding in an unpublished opinion that the plaintiffs satisfied Article III standing requirements by alleging that a bank discriminated against non-U.S. citizens in barring them from opening accounts online. The plaintiffs, lawful residents with valid Social Security numbers, filed a putative class action complaint claiming the bank allowed U.S. citizens to apply for new checking accounts online, but required the plaintiffs (based solely on their status as non-U.S. citizens) to apply in person at a branch office. The district court dismissed the claims, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to establish standing for their discrimination claims on the basis of citizenship status. The 9th Circuit disagreed, finding that “discrimination itself . . . can cause serious non-economic injuries to those persons who are denied equal treatment solely because of their membership in a disfavored group,” and concluding that the plaintiffs alleged a concrete injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing. “The fact that [p]laintiffs would have ultimately obtained the same checking account given to U.S. citizens does not vitiate the alleged discriminatory injury: that [the bank] imposes on non-U.S. citizens a requirement to apply in person that it does not impose on others,” the appellate court said. The 9th Circuit added that this injury was directly linked to the bank’s policy and reversed the dismissal but declined to rule on the substance of the claims.

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