A matter is considered moot if further legal proceedings with regard to the matter can have no effect. If the judgment of a court cannot operate to grant actual relief, the case is at moot and the court is without power to render decision. Mootness limits a court’s jurisdiction.
An appeal may become moot due to various reasons. For example, controversy in a cause may cease due to the occurrence of events subsequent to the trial court’s judgment. If the parties prefer an appeal after the cessation of controversy, a moot appeal occurs. Thus, an appeal becomes moot when:
- the cause of action for the case ceases;
- the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome;
- a party seeks judgment upon some matter which cannot have any practical legal effect upon a then existing controversy; or
- the occurrence of an event renders it impossible for the appellate court to grant any effective relief
- the resolution of appeal would require an abstract determination unrelated to existing facts.
Moreover, there must be an actual justiciable issue while seeking relief before the appellate court. A justiciable issue requires a present, substantial controversy between parties. Parties must have adverse legal interests subject to immediate resolution and capable of present judicial enforcement.[i] However, the fact that one of the several issues in the appeal has become moot will not dispose the entire cause. The cause can be continued if the remaining live issues have the constitutional requirement of a case or controversy.[ii]
A moot-claim can be raised by:
- a party;
- an amicus curiae; or
- the reviewing court.
A court can raise a moot claim any time before the determination of the appeal. When a moot claim is raised by the court, the claim is to be expressed by a brief filed after oral argument.
The burden of establishing a moot claim is with the party asserting mootness. The parties are not at liberty to compel the court to decide on a moot issue. An appellant knowingly litigating a moot appeal must bear the burden of appeal cost and attorney fee.
In determining personal or property rights, courts may have to give an opinion upon a question of law and these may have precedential value in future. However, courts are not empowered to decide moot questions or abstract propositions which cannot affect the result as to the thing in issue. Neither parties nor counsel, can enlarge the power, or affect the duty, of the court.[iii]
[i]Greater Omaha Realty Co. v. City of Omaha, 258 Neb. 714 (Neb. 2000)
[ii]Fehribach v. City of Troy, 412 F. Supp. 2d 639 ( E.D. Mich. 2006)
[iii]In re Hearings by Committee on Banking & Currency, 245 F.2d 667 (7th Cir. Ill. 1957)