law-mootness-doctrine | live controversy amendable to judicial resolution | no advisory opinions |
standing doctrine | standing to sue | ripeness doctrine | plea to the jurisdiction |
The mootness doctrine prevents courts from rendering advisory opinions, which are outside the
jurisdiction conferred by article II, section 1 of the Texas Constitution. See Valley Baptist Med. Ctr. v.
Gonzalez, 33 S.W.3d 821, 822 (Tex. 2000). A controversy must exist between the parties at every stage
of the legal proceeding, including the appeal. Bd. of Adjustment of City of San Antonio v. Wende, 92 S.
W.3d 424, 427 (Tex. 2002); McClure v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, 147 S.W.3d 648, 651 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth 2004, pet. denied). An issue may become moot when a party seeks a ruling on some matter that,
when rendered, would not have any practical legal effect on a then-existing controversy. See In re H&R
Block Fin. Advisors, Inc., 262 S.W.3d 896, 900 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, orig. proceeding);
City of Farmers Branch v. Ramos, 235 S.W.3d 462, 469 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2007, no pet.). When an
appeal is moot, we must set aside the judgment and dismiss the cause. McClure, 147 S.W.3d at 651;
City of Fort Worth v. Pastusek Indus., Inc., 48 S.W.3d 366, 371 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2001, no pet.).
The mootness doctrine also implicates subject-matter jurisdiction. Hernandez-Perez v. State, No. 01-09-
00801-CR, 2010 WL 2133935, at *1 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] May 27, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.)
(citing Trulock v. City of Duncanville, 277 S.W.3d 920, 923 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2009, no pet.)). A case
is moot if a controversy ceases to exist or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.
Allstate Ins. Co. v. Hallman, 159 S.W.3d 640, 642 (Tex. 2005). When a case becomes moot, the parties
lose standing to maintain their claims. Williams, 52 S.W.3d at 184.
SOURCE: Houston Court of Appeals - 01-10-00967-CV - 8/18/11
Appellate courts decide only those issues in which a controversy exists. Camarena v. Tex. Employment
Comm'n, 754 S.W.2d 149, 151 (Tex. 1988). The final protective order in this case expired by its own
terms on August 12, 2010. We must first address whether the expiration of the protective order has
rendered this case moot before we examine the merits of Martin's claim. Clements v. Haskovec, 251 S.
W.3d 79, 83 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2008, no pet.); State for the Protection of Cockerham v.
Cockerham, 218 S.W.3d 298, 302 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2007, no pet.).
"The general rule is that a case becomes moot, and thus unreviewable, when it appears that a party
seeks to obtain relief on some alleged controversy when in reality none exists." Schaban-Maurer v.
Maurer-Schaban, 238 S.W.3d 815, 822 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2007, no pet.) (citing Williams v. Lara, 52
S.W.3d 171, 184 (Tex. 2001)); Cockerham, 218 S.W.3d at 301. Texas law does recognize a "collateral
consequences" exception to the mootness doctrine. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Nueces County, 886 S.W.
2d 766, 767 (Tex. 1994); Cockerham, 218 S.W.3d at 302. The "collateral consequences" exception is
only invoked under "narrow circumstances when vacating the underlying judgment cannot cure adverse
consequences suffered by" the appellant. Marshall v. Housing Auth. of City of San Antonio, 198 S.W.3d
782, 789 (Tex. 2006). Such narrow circumstances exist when "as a result of the judgment's entry (1)
concrete disadvantages or disabilities have in fact occurred, are imminently threatened to occur, or are
imposed as a matter of law; and (2) the concrete disadvantages and disabilities will persist even after
the judgment is vacated." Id.; see Gen. Land Office of the State of Tex. v. OXY U.S.A., Inc., 789 S.W.2d
569, 571 (Tex. 1990) (noting collateral consequences exception is invoked only when prejudicial events
occurred whose effects will continue to stigmatize after dismissal of case as moot).
"A case becomes moot if a controversy ceases to exist or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in
the outcome." Allstate Ins. Co. v. Hallman, 159 S.W.3d 640, 642 (Tex. 2005). "A case is not rendered
moot simply because some of the issues become moot. . . ." In re Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 166 S.W.
3d 732, 737 (Tex. 2005) (orig. proceeding). "The mootness doctrine implicates subject matter
jurisdiction." City of Dallas v. Woodfield, 305 S.W.3d 412, 416 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). "[W]hen
a case becomes moot the only proper judgment is one dismissing the cause." Polk v. Davidson, 196 S.
W.2d 632, 633 (Tex. 1946); see also Woodfield, 305 S.W.3d at 416 ("If a case is moot, the appellate
court is required to vacate any judgment or order in the trial court and dismiss the case.").
The mootness doctrine prevents courts from rendering advisory opinions, and under article II, section 1
of the Texas Constitution, courts have no jurisdiction to issue advisory opinions. See Valley Baptist Med.
Ctr. v. Gonzalez, 33 S.W.3d 821, 822 (Tex. 2000) (per curiam). "[A] controversy must exist between the
parties at every stage of the legal proceedings, including the appeal." Bd. of Adjustment of City of San
Antonio v. Wende, 92 S.W.3d 424, 427 (Tex. 2002) (quoting Williams v. Lara, 52 S.W.3d 171, 184 (Tex.
2001)). An issue may become moot when a party seeks a ruling on some matter which, when rendered,
would not have any practical legal effect on a then-existing controversy. See In re H&R Block Fin.
Advisors, Inc., 262 S.W.3d 896, 900 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, orig. proceeding).
TEXAS SUPREME COURT CASES RELATING TO MOOTNESS
Texas A&M University - Kingsville v. Yarbrough, No. 09-0999 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011)
(Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson)(tenure dispute moot)
An associate professor contends that her application for tenure was undermined by a department
chair's summary of a performance evaluation in which the professor received an "exceptional" numerical
rating. Although she was given the opportunity to rebut the summary, the professor asserts that the
university prevented her from filing an official grievance. The professor was granted tenure before she
filed the present suit requesting a declaration that the university's action violated Government Code
section 617.005. We must decide whether her complaint about the university's grievance process
survives her status as a tenured professor. Because we conclude that this case presents no live
controversy, we reverse the court of appeals' judgment and render judgment dismissing the case.
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY - KINGSVILLE v. MELODY YARBROUGH; from Kleberg County; 13th district
(13-07-00744-CV, 298 SW3d 366, 09-24-09)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Chief Justice Jefferson delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Medina, Justice Green,
Justice Guzman, and Justice Lehrmann joined. [pdf]
Justice Willett delivered a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Hecht, Justice Wainwright, and Justice
Johnson joined. [pdf]
Link to e-briefs: TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY - KINGSVILLE v. YARBROUGH
Severance v. Patterson, No. 09-0387 (Tex. Jul. 29, 2011)(per curiam)(abatement of Open Beaches
Act case) Pursuant to article V, section 3-c of the Texas Constitution and Texas Rule of Appellate
Procedure 58.1, this Court agreed to answer questions of state law certified from the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We issued the opinion on November 5, 2010. We later granted
rehearing. While rehearing was pending, Appellant Carol Severance sold the property at issue to the
City of Galveston in a Federal Emergency Management Agency buyout program for homes damaged by
Hurricane Ike. Appellees contend that Severance's sale of the real property renders moot both the
underlying lawsuit and our consideration of the certified questions on rehearing, and warrants vacating
the original opinion. Severance disputes these contentions. The parties have notified the United States
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit of the sale.
The determination whether the federal lawsuit is moot must be made by the Fifth Circuit. We abate our
consideration on rehearing of the certified questions pending this mootness determination.
CAROL SEVERANCE v. JERRY PATTERSON, COMMISSIONER OF THE TEXAS GENERAL LAND
OFFICE; GREG ABBOTT, ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF TEXAS; AND KURT SISTRUNK,
DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE COUNTY OF GALVESTON, TEXAS
The Court abates consideration on rehearing of the certified questions pending the mootness
determination of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Per Curiam Opinion [pdf]
(Chief Justice Jefferson not sitting)
View Electronic Briefs (including numerous amicus briefs)
SEVERANCE v. JERRY PATTERSON, COMMISSIONER OF THE TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICE
COURT OF APPEALS CASES INVOLVING ISSUE OF MOOTNESS
ESTATE OF HAZEL DELORES HATCHER, DECEASED; from Collin County; 5th district
(05-06-01109-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 12-11-07, pet. denied June 2008)(probate mattter, will contest)
(voluntarily accepted benefits of the challenged order moots appeal)
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