Case Details


Individual Taxpayers Do Not Have Standing To Bring A Cause Of Action When The State Is The Real Party In Interest.

Filing State



Illinois Supreme Court




Lyons v. Ryan, 201 Ill.2d 529, 780 N.E.2d 1098, 269 Ill.Dec. 374 (Ill. 2002)


Taxpayers filed suit seeking constructive trust on funds received illegally by Governor’s campaign committee. Supreme Court held that only the Attorney General is empowered to represent the state in litigation when it is the real party in interest; and section 20-104(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/20-104(b) (West 1998)) is unconstitutional to the extent that it purports to confer standing on private citizens to sue in cases where the state is the real party in interest.

Case Description

Taxpayers filed suit alleging that Governor and former campaign committee had received illegal contributions, and seeking to enforce a constructive trust on that money “on behalf of the state.” Section 20-104(b) of the Illinois Code provides in part that a private citizen may bring a lawsuit to recover damages from persons who have defrauded the state if the Attorney General fails to file suit or arrange for settlement of the action, after notice. The lower courts found that plaintiffs did not have standing to bring these claims where the state was the real party in interest. The court first determined that the state is the real party in interest, because the state is actually and substantially interested in this action, and only the state would be entitled to the benefits of a successful action, not individual taxpayers. “Taxpayer standing to bring a derivative action turns largely on the identity of the governmental entity that is the real party in interest. Where, as here, the state is the real party in interest, individual taxpayers have no standing to bring the cause of action.” the Attorney General possesses the exclusive constitutional power and prerogative to conduct the state’s legal affairs. Therefore, we hold that plaintiffs lack constitutional standing to bring a taxpayer action.