Mootness in the United States

A case in which the courts can no longer provide a party any relief because the dispute has been resolved or has ceased to exist. A moot case is no longer a real controversy, and Article III of the U.S. Constitution requires that cases that come before courts be bona fide controversies. An action becomes moot when circumstances remove the underlying controversy or issue in the case. Without a justiciable issue, the case raises only a hypothetical question.

See Also

Advisory Opinion (Civil Process) Justiciable Issue (Civil Process) Standing (Civil Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Mootness is the absence of an active question. The matter is therefore nonjusticiable. When the Supreme Court refused to address the reverse discrimination issue in DeFunis v. Odegaard (416 U.S. 312: 1974) on grounds of mootness, for example, it said the controversy was no longer definite and concrete. The Court found the controversy moot because while DeFunis challenged the Affirmative Action (U.S.) admissions practices of a public law school, he had been allowed to attend class and otherwise function as though he had been admitted throughout the litigation. The Court refused to rule on the merits of the case because it no longer touched “the legal relations of parties having adverse interests.” Exceptions to the mootness threshold involve situations where time is too limited to litigate an issue fully and where a likelihood exists that the question will reoccur. Abortion cases qualify for an exception to the mootness rule, for example, because no appellate court can ever hear an abortion issue prior to a pregnancy running to full term. The Court observed in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113: 1973) that appellate review would forever be foreclosed by mootness because a pregnancy would not last beyond the trial stage. Saying the law should not be that rigid, the Court acknowledged the need for the exception for issues that are “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” If the courts responded routinely to cases that had become moot, they would constantly be engaging in rendering advisory opinions.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Mootness from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Mootness in the United States


United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled MOOTNESSArticle III’s case or controversy restriction precludes federal courts from declaring law except in the context of litigation by parties with a personal stake in a live dispute that judicial decision can affect. They may not resolve moot questions-questions whose resolution can no longer
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Some Constitutional Law Popular Entries


United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled MOOTNESS Constitutional litigation often takes place on two distinct planes. First, the parties disagree about whether government has wrongfully injured the plaintiff’s liberty or property interests. Second, the subject matter of the litigation sets the stage for a larger legal and
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Mootness (Justiciability)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of mootness. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Justiciability is provided. Finally, the subject of Civil Procedure in relation with mootness is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Mootness: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Mootness. This part provides references, in relation to Mootness, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Mootness by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Mootness and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Mootness or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Mootness and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Mootness. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Mootness should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Mootness when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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