Monday, November 19, 2018

mootness


Clean Air Council v. County of Allegheny – Cmwlth. Court – November 19, 2018 – unreported* memorandum opinion

This case is not of interest as far as substance, but it has the following discussion of the doctrine of mootness.


The mootness doctrine requires an actual case or controversy to exist at all stages. It is a well-established principle of law that this Court will not decide moot questions. The articulation of the mootness doctrine . . . was acknowledged in . . . In re Gross, . . . 382 A.2d 116 ([Pa.] 1978) as follows: The problems arise from events occurring after the lawsuit has gotten under way-changes in the facts or in the law-which allegedly deprive the litigant of the necessary stake in the outcome. The mootness doctrine requires that ‘an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review. . . .’ G. Gunther, Constitutional Law 1578 (9th ed. 1975). [In re Gross], 382 A.2d at 119.

An issue can become moot during the pendency of an appeal due to an intervening change in the facts of the case or due to an intervening change in the applicable law. In re Cain, . . . 590 A.2d 291, 292 ([Pa.] 1991). Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. v. Cromwell Twp., Huntingdon Cty., 32 A.3d 639, 651 (Pa. 2011). Further, [the Pennsylvania Supreme] Court has repeatedly recognized two exceptions to the mootness doctrine: (1) for matters of great public importance and (2) for matters capable of repetition, which are likely to elude review.

Moreover, we have found this exception applicable where a case involves an issue that is important to the public interest or where a party will suffer some detriment without a court decision.   Pilchesky v. Lackawanna Cty., 88 A.3d 954, 964-65 (Pa. 2014) (citation omitted).
                                                              
Under the mootness doctrine, ‘an actual case or controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.’ Pub. Defender’s Office of Venango [Cty.] v. Venango [Cty.] Court of Common Pleas, . . . 893 A.2d 1275, 1279 ([Pa.] 2006) [(quoting Pap’s A.M. v. City of Erie, . . . 812 A.2d 591, 599-600 ([Pa.] 2002))]. The existence of a case or controversy requires ‘a real and not a hypothetical legal controversy and one that affects another in a concrete manner so as to provide a factual predicate for reasoned adjudication. . . .’ City of Phila[.] v. [Se. Pa. Transp. Auth.], 937 A.2d 1176, 1179 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). Harris v. Rendell, 982 A.2d 1030, 1035 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009), aff’d, 992 A.2d 121 (Pa. 2010). Further, [i]t is well settled that the courts ‘do not render decisions in the abstract or offer purely advisory opinions.’ Pittsburgh Palisades Park, LLC v. Commonwealth, . . . 888 A.2d 655, 659 ([Pa.] 2005). Judicial intervention ‘is appropriate only where the underlying controversy is real and concrete, rather than abstract.’ City of Phila[.] v. Commonwealth, . . . 838 A.2d 566, 577 ([Pa.] 2003). Harris, 982 A.2d at 1035. “The key inquiry in determining whether a case is moot is whether the court or agency will be able to grant effective relief and whether the litigant has been deprived of the necessary stake in the outcome of the litigation.” Consol Pa. Coal Co., LLC v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., 129 A.3d 28, 39 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015)

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*An unreported Commonwealth Court case may not be cited binding precedent but can be cited for its persuasive value.  See 210 Pa. Code § 69.414(b)

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