law-moot-mootness-doctrine | no advisory opinions | no actual controversy between parties | justiciability |
subject-matter jurisdiction | dismissal for want of jurisdiction |
MOOTNESS DOCTRINE & EXCEPTIONS - CASE LAW
The mootness doctrine precludes a court from rendering an advisory opinion in a case
where there is no live controversy. Camarena v. Tex. Employment Comm'n, 754 S.W.2d 149, 151
(Tex. 1988); Scurlock Permian Corp. v. Brazos County, 869 S.W.2d 478, 487 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.]
1993, writ denied) (“Courts may not give advisory opinions or decide cases upon speculative, hypothetical, or
A declaratory judgment is appropriate when a justiciable controversy exists concerning the rights and status of
the parties and the controversy will be resolved by the declaration sought. But an action does not vest a court
with the power to decide hypothetical or contingent situations or to determine questions not essential to the
decision of an actual controversy, even if such question may require adjudication in the future. Harris County
Mun. Util. Dist. No. 156 v. United Somerset Corp., 274 S.W.3d 133, 139-40 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2008,
no pet.) (quoting Tex. Health Care Info. Council v. Seton Health Plan, Inc., 94 S.W.3d 841, 846 (Tex. App.-
Austin 2002, pet. denied)).
A case becomes moot when: (1) it appears that a party seeks to obtain a judgment upon some controversy,
when in reality none exists; or (2) a party seeks a judgment upon some matter which cannot have any practical
legal effect upon a then existing controversy. Mollinedo v. Tex. Employment Comm'n, 662 S.W.2d 732, 738
(Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.); Scholl v. Firemen's & Policemen's Civil Serv. Comm'n, 520
S.W.2d 470, 471 (Tex. Civ. App.-Corpus Christi 1975, no writ) (per curiam).
Robinson v. Alief ISD (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 25, 2009) (public employment, school law)
(school employee record expunction dispute, lack of jurisdiction due to mootness, no declaratory judgment on
constitutional violations that have stopped, plaintiff no longer an employee subject to alleged unconstitutional
conduct, opportunity to amend waived )
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Chief Justice Hedges
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Brock Yates and Frost
14-08-00949-CV Adrian Robinson v. Alief Independent School District and Louis Stoerner, In his Official
Appeal from 80th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: LYNN M. BRADSHAW-HULL
Dissenting Opinion by Justice Frost in Adrian Robinson v. Alief Independent School District
In his sole issue, Robinson contends that his requests for injunctive and declaratory relief were not moot
despite his resignation from AISD and AISD's decision to expunge portions of his employee file. In response,
AISD and Stoerner argue that because there is no live controversy, any judicial action on the merits of
Robinson's claims would merely be advisory.
The Mootness Doctrine - Dismissal required when controversy becomes moot
Neither the Texas Constitution nor the Texas Legislature has vested this Court with the authority to render
advisory opinions. See Tex. Const. art. II, _ I; see also Camarena v. Tex. Employment Comm'n, 754 S.W.2d
149, 151 (Tex. 1988). The mootness doctrine limits courts to deciding cases in which an actual controversy
exists between the parties. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Nueces County, 886 S.W.2d 766, 767 (Tex. 1994).
When there ceases to be a controversy between the litigating parties due to events occurring after the trial
court has rendered judgment, the decision of an appellate court would be a mere academic exercise, and the
court may not decide the appeal. See Olson v. Comm'n for Lawyer Discipline, 901 S.W.2d 520, 522 (Tex. App.-
El Paso 1995, no writ).
Stated differently, if a judgment cannot have a practical effect on an existing controversy, the case is moot. Id.
In that situation, the appellate court is required to vacate the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the
underlying cause of action. See Speer v. Presbyterian Children's Home & Serv. Agency, 847 S.W.2d 227, 228
(Tex. 1993); see also Gen. Land Office v. OXY U.S.A., Inc., 789 S.W.2d 569, 570 (Tex. 1990) (if no controversy
continues to exist between the parties, the appeal is moot and the court of appeals must dismiss the cause);
Guajardo v. Alamo Lumber Co., 159 Tex. 225, 317 S.W.2d 725, 726 (1958) (when a case becomes moot on
appeal, all previous orders are set aside by the appellate court, and the case is dismissed).
When a trial court appoints a receiver to sell real property, and the real property is sold after the appellant has
perfected its appeal, the appeal of the appointment of the receiver becomes moot. See Beard v. Beard, 49 S.W.
3d 40, 71- 72 (Tex. App.- Waco 2001, pet. denied) (concluding that appeal of appointment of receiver was
moot when real property that was sole subject of receivership had been foreclosed upon after appellant
perfected her appeal). Therefore, we will examine the record to determine whether the Property - the sole
subject of the receivership - was sold after Pirate's Lake perfected its appeal, thereby rendering its appeal
Pirate's Lake Ltd. v. Vestin Realty Mortgage I, Inc., No. 14-08-00085-CV (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug.
12, 2008)(challenge to appointment of receiver, foreclosure of property moots issue)
Exceptions to the Mootness Doctrine
The Texas Supreme Court has recognized two exceptions to the mootness doctrine, neither of which apply
here: (1) the “capable of repetition yet evading review exception"; and (2) the “collateral consequences
exception." See Gen. Land Office, 789 S.W.2d at 571. The former applies where the challenged act is of such
short duration that the appellant cannot obtain review before the issue becomes moot. Id. This exception has
been used only to challenge unconstitutional acts performed by the government. Id. The latter is invoked only
under narrow circumstances, when vacating the underlying judgment will not cure the adverse consequences
suffered by the party seeking to appeal that judgment. Marshall v. Hous. Auth. of San Antonio, 198 S.W.3d 782,
789 (Tex. 2006). In order to invoke the collateral consequences exception, Pirate's Lake must show
(1) a concrete disadvantage resulted from the judgment; and (2) the disadvantage will persist even if the
judgment is vacated and the case dismissed as moot. Id. Pirate's Lake does not contend that either exception
applies to the present appeal. Pirate's Lake Ltd. v. Vestin Realty Mortgage I, Inc., No. 14-08-00085-CV (Tex.
App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 12, 2008)(challenge to appointment of receiver, foreclosure of property moots
Stephens v. City of Houston (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] June 12, 2008)(Keyes) (public employment, City of
Houston litigation, UDJA claims stemming from termination of city employment moot, no standing)
There is no live controversy affecting Stephens's constitutional rights. Because Stephens was permanently
dismissed as a City employee and he failed to appeal the final dismissal order of the CSC on constitutional
grounds, his claims are now moot and he lacks a legally cognizable interest in obtaining the declaratory relief
he seeks. See Williams, 52 S.W.3d at 184.
Moreover, the legislature has not conferred on the district courts the right to review a municipal employee's
termination and to order reinstatement and back pay. See Ferrell, 248 S.W.3d at 159. Nor does the Declaratory
Judgment Act confer jurisdiction on the courts to adjudicate claims seeking to establish the basis for monetary
relief. See IT-Davy, 74 S.W.3d at 855, 856. We hold that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over
Stephens's declaratory judgment action and, therefore, the court did not err in granting the City's plea to the
APPEAL MOOTED WHEN TRIAL COURT GRANTED MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL ONE DAY AFTER NOTICE
OF APPEAL WAS FILED.
Generally, appeals may be taken only from final judgments. Lehmann v. Har-Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 195
(Tex. 2001). When a motion for new trial is granted, the case is reinstated upon the docket of the trial court
and will stand for trial the same as though no trial had been had. Wilkins v. Methodist Health Care Sys., 160 S.
W.3d 559, 563 (Tex. 2005). Thus, when the trial court grants a motion for new trial, the trial
court "essentially wipes the slate clean and starts over." Id. Here, the trial court granted Stelly's
motion for new trial within the period of its plenary power. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 329b(d), (e); Thomas v. Oldham,
895 S.W.2d 352, 356 (Tex. 1995). Therefore, the issues presented in this appeal are rendered moot and this
Court lacks appellate jurisdiction. Accordingly, we order the appeal dismissed. Stelly v. Citibank (Tex.App.-
Houston [14th Dist.] May 15, 2008)(Hedges)(credit card debt suit, appeal mooted by trial court's grant of motion
for new trial after notice of appeal was filed)
DISMISSED: Opinion by Chief Justice Adele Hedges
14-07-00601-CV Diane T. Stelly v. Citibank (South Dakota) N.A.
Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No 4 of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Roberta Anne Lloyd
In re H&R Block Fin. Advisors, Inc., 262 S.W.3d 896, 900 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, orig.
proceeding) (explaining mootness doctrine).
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