Alvarez v. Smith , 558 U.S. 87 ( 2009 )


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  • (Slip Opinion)              OCTOBER TERM, 2009                                       1
    
                                           Syllabus
    
             NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
           being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
           The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
           prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
           See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 
    200 U.S. 321
    , 337.
    
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
    
                                           Syllabus
    
       ALVAREZ, COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY v. 
    
                      SMITH ET AL. 
    
    
    CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
                    THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
    
      No. 08–351.      Argued October 14, 2009—Decided December 8, 2009
    Illinois law provides for forfeiture of movable personal property used to
       facilitate a drug crime, permits police to seize the property without a
       warrant, and allows the State to keep the property nearly five
       months before beginning judicial forfeiture proceedings. Respon
       dents, six individuals who had cars and cash seized under that law,
       brought this federal civil rights action, claiming that the failure of
       the State to provide a speedy postseizure hearing violated the federal
       Due Process Clause. The District Court dismissed the case based on
       Circuit precedent, but, on appeal, the Seventh Circuit departed from
       that precedent and ruled for respondents. This Court granted certio
       rari to review the Seventh Circuit’s due process determination, but
       at oral argument the Court learned that all of the actual property
       disputes between the parties had been resolved.
    Held:
        1. The case is moot. The Constitution permits this Court to decide
     legal questions only in the context of actual “Cases” or “Controver
     sies,” Art. III, §2, and an actual controversy must exist at all stages of
     review, not just when the complaint is filed, Preiser v. Newkirk, 
    422 U.S. 395
    , 401. Here there is no longer any actual controversy re
     garding ownership or possession of the underlying property. There is
     no claim for damages before this Court; there is no properly certified
     class or dispute over class certification; and this case does not fit
     within the category of cases that are “capable of repetition” while
     “evading review.” Only an abstract dispute about the law remains.
     Pp. 4–6.
        2. The judgment below is vacated. In moot cases, this Court nor
     mally vacates the lower court judgment, which clears the path for re
    2                           ALVAREZ v. SMITH
    
                                      Syllabus
    
        litigation of the issues and preserves the rights of the parties, while
        prejudicing none by a preliminary decision.           United States v.
        Munsingwear, Inc., 
    340 U.S. 36
    , 40. Where mootness is the result of
        settlement rather than happenstance, however, the losing party for
        feits the equitable remedy of vacatur. U. S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v.
        Bonner Mall Partnership, 
    513 U.S. 18
    , 25. This case more closely re
        sembles mootness through happenstance than through settlement.
        In Bancorp, the party seeking review caused the mootness by volun
        tarily settling the issue contested throughout the litigation. Here,
        the Court believes that the presence of the federal case played no
        significant role in the termination of plaintiffs’ state-court forfeiture
        proceedings. Plaintiffs’ forfeiture cases took place with no procedural
        link to the case before this Court; apparently terminated on substan
        tive grounds in their ordinary course; and, to the Court’s knowledge,
        no one raised the procedural question at issue here in those cases.
        This Court therefore concludes that it should follow its ordinary prac
        tice and order vacatur. Pp. 6–9.
    
    524 F.3d 834
    , vacated and remanded.
    
       BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
    C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, GINSBURG, ALITO, and SO-
    TOMAYOR, JJ., joined, and in which STEVENS, J., joined as to Parts I and
    II. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in
    part.
                           Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)                              1
    
                                Opinion of the Court
    
        NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
        preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
        notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash­
        ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
        that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
    
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                                      _________________
    
                                      No. 08–351
                                      _________________
    
    
          ANITA ALVAREZ, COOK COUNTY STATE’S 
    
           ATTORNEY, PETITIONER v. CHERMANE 
    
                      SMITH ET AL. 
    
     ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
    
               APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
    
                                 [December 8, 2009] 
    
    
       JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
       We granted certiorari in this case to determine whether
    Illinois law provides a sufficiently speedy opportunity for
    an individual, whose car or cash police have seized with­
    out a warrant, to contest the lawfulness of the seizure.
    See U. S. Const., Amdt. 14, §1; United States v. Von Neu
    mann, 
    474 U.S. 242
     (1986); United States v. $8,850, 
    461 U.S. 555
     (1983). At the time of oral argument, however,
    we learned that the underlying property disputes have all
    ended. The State has returned all the cars that it seized,
    and the individual property owners have either forfeited
    any relevant cash or have accepted as final the State’s
    return of some of it. We consequently find the case moot,
    and we therefore vacate the judgment of the Court of
    Appeals and remand the case to that court with instruc­
    tions to dismiss. United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 
    340 U.S. 36
    , 39 (1950); see also E. Gressman, K. Geller, S.
    Shapiro, T. Bishop, & E. Hartnett, Supreme Court Prac­
    tice 941–942 (9th ed. 2007).
    2                    ALVAREZ v. SMITH 
    
    
                         Opinion of the Court 
    
    
                                  I
    
       Illinois law provides for forfeiture of movable personal
    property (including cars and cash) used “to facilitate” a
    drug crime. Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 720, §570/505(a)(6) (West
    2008). It permits a police officer to seize that property
    without a warrant where (1) the officer has “probable
    cause to believe” the property was so used and (2) a “war­
    rantless seizure . . . would be reasonable” in the circum­
    stances. §570/505(b). When an officer has seized property
    without a warrant, the relevant law enforcement agency
    must notify the State’s Attorney within 52 days of the
    seizure; the State’s Attorney must notify the property
    owner of any impending forfeiture within a further 45
    days; and, if the owner wishes to contest forfeiture, the
    State’s Attorney must begin judicial forfeiture proceedings
    within yet a further 45 days. See ch. 725, §§150/5–150/6.
    Thus, the statute gives the State up to 142 days, nearly
    five months, to begin judicial forfeiture proceedings—
    during which time the statute permits the State to keep
    the car or cash within its possession.
       On November 22, 2006, six individuals (the respondents
    or “plaintiffs”) brought this federal civil rights action
    against defendants the city of Chicago, the Superintendent
    of the Chicago Police Department, and the Cook County
    State’s Attorney (the petitioner here, whom we shall call
    the “State’s Attorney”). See Rev. Stat. §1979, 
    42 U.S. C
    .
    §1983. Three of the individuals, Chermane Smith, Ed­
    manuel Perez, and Tyhesha Brunston, said that earlier in
    2006 the police had, upon their arrests, seized their cars
    without a warrant. See Complaint ¶25, App. 34a (Smith,
    seizure on Jan. 19, 2006); id., ¶26, at 34a (Perez, seizure
    on Mar. 8, 2006); id., ¶27, at 34a (Brunston, seizure on
    Apr. 8, 2006); Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification ¶8,
    at 39a. The other three plaintiffs, Michelle Waldo, Kirk
    Yunker, and Tony Williams, said that earlier in 2006
    police had, upon their arrests, seized their cash without a
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            3
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    warrant. See Complaint ¶28, at 34a–35a (Waldo, seizure
    on Jan. 20, 2006); id., ¶29, at 35a (Yunker, seizure on
    Sept. 26, 2006); id., ¶30, at 35a (Williams, seizure in July
    2006); Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification ¶8, at 39a.
    The plaintiffs added that the police department still had
    custody of their property. See Complaint ¶¶24–30, at
    34a–35a. They claimed that the failure of the State to
    provide a speedy postseizure hearing violated the federal
    Due Process Clause. See U. S. Const., Amdt. 14, §1. And
    they asked the court (1) to certify the case as a class ac­
    tion, (2) to declare that they had a due process right to a
    prompt postseizure probable-cause hearing, (3) to declare
    that the hearing must take place within 10 days of any
    seizure, and (4) to enjoin the defendants’ current practice
    of keeping the property in custody for a longer time with­
    out a judicial determination of probable cause. See Com­
    plaint ¶36, App. 36a.
       The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the
    ground that Seventh Circuit precedent made clear that
    “the Constitution does not require any procedure prior to
    the actual forfeiture proceeding.” Jones v. Takaki, 
    38 F.3d 321
    , 324 (1994) (citing Von Neumann, supra, at 249).
    On February 22, 2007, the District Court granted the
    motion to dismiss. It also denied the plaintiffs’ motion for
    class certification. The plaintiffs appealed.
       On May 2, 2008, the Seventh Circuit decided the appeal
    in the plaintiffs’ favor. Smith v. Chicago, 
    524 F.3d 834
    .
    It reconsidered and departed from its earlier precedent.
    Id., at 836–839. It held that “the procedures set out in”
    the Illinois statute “show insufficient concern for the due
    process right of the plaintiffs.” Id., at 838. And it added
    that, “given the length of time which can result between
    the seizure of property and the opportunity for an owner
    to contest the seizure under” Illinois law, “some sort of
    mechanism to test the validity of the retention of the
    property is required.” Ibid. The Court of Appeals re­
    4                    ALVAREZ v. SMITH
    
                          Opinion of the Court
    
    versed the judgment of the District Court and remanded
    the case for further proceedings. Id., at 839. Its mandate
    issued about seven weeks thereafter.
       On February 23, 2009, we granted certiorari to review
    the Seventh Circuit’s “due process” determination. The
    Court of Appeals then recalled its mandate. The parties
    filed briefs in this Court. We then recognized that
    the case might be moot, and we asked the parties to ad­
    dress the question of mootness at the forthcoming oral
    argument.
       At oral argument counsel for both sides confirmed that
    there was no longer any dispute about ownership or pos­
    session of the relevant property. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 5
    (State’s Attorney); id., at 56–57 (plaintiffs). The State had
    returned the cars to plaintiffs Smith, Perez, and Brunston.
    See id., at 5. Two of the plaintiffs had “defaulted,” appar­
    ently conceding that the State could keep the cash. Ibid.
    And the final plaintiff and the State’s Attorney agreed
    that the plaintiff could keep some, but not all, of the cash
    at issue. Id., at 5, 56–57. As counsel for the State’s Attor­
    ney told us, “[T]hose cases are over.” Id., at 5.
                                   II
       The Constitution permits this Court to decide legal
    questions only in the context of actual “Cases” or “Contro­
    versies.” U. S. Const., Art. III, §2. An “ ‘actual controversy
    must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the
    time the complaint is filed.’ ” Preiser v. Newkirk, 
    422 U.S. 395
    , 401 (1975) (quoting Steffel v. Thompson, 
    415 U.S. 452
    , 459, n. 10 (1974)). In this case there is no longer any
    actual controversy between the parties about ownership or
    possession of the underlying property.
       The State’s Attorney argues that there is a continuing
    controversy over damages. We concede that the plaintiffs
    filed a motion in the District Court seeking damages. But
    the plaintiffs filed their motion after the Seventh Circuit
                      Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            5
    
                          Opinion of the Court
    
    issued its opinion. And, after this Court granted certio­
    rari, the Court of Appeals recalled its mandate, taking the
    case away from the District Court before the District
    Court could respond to the motion. Thus, we have before
    us a complaint that seeks only declaratory and injunctive
    relief, not damages.
      The plaintiffs point out that they sought certification of
    a class. And a class might well contain members who
    continue to dispute ownership of seized property. But that
    fact is beside the point. The District Court denied the
    plaintiffs’ class certification motion. The plaintiffs did not
    appeal that denial. Hence the only disputes relevant here
    are those between these six plaintiffs and the State’s
    Attorney; those disputes concerned cars and cash; and
    those disputes are now over.           United States Parole
    Comm’n v. Geraghty, 
    445 U.S. 388
    , 404 (1980) (“A named
    plaintiff whose claim expires may not continue to press
    the appeal on the merits until a class has been properly
    certified”).
      The parties, of course, continue to dispute the lawful­
    ness of the State’s hearing procedures. But that dispute is
    no longer embedded in any actual controversy about the
    plaintiffs’ particular legal rights. Rather, it is an abstract
    dispute about the law, unlikely to affect these plaintiffs
    any more than it affects other Illinois citizens. And a
    dispute solely about the meaning of a law, abstracted from
    any concrete actual or threatened harm, falls outside the
    scope of the constitutional words “Cases” and “Controver­
    sies.” See, e.g., Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 
    494 U.S. 472
    , 477 (1990); North Carolina v. Rice, 
    404 U.S. 244
    , 246
    (1971) (per curiam); Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 
    300 U.S. 227
    , 241 (1937); Mills v. Green, 
    159 U.S. 651
    , 653
    (1895).
      We can find no special circumstance here that might
    warrant our continuing to hear the case. We have some­
    times heard attacks on practices that no longer directly
    6                   ALVAREZ v. SMITH
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    affect the attacking party, but are “capable of repetition”
    while “evading review.”        See, e.g., Federal Election
    Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 
    551 U.S. 449
    , 462
    (2007); Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. ICC, 
    219 U.S. 498
    , 515 (1911). Yet here, unlike those cases, nothing
    suggests that the individual plaintiffs will likely again
    prove subject to the State’s seizure procedures. See Los
    Angeles v. Lyons, 
    461 U.S. 95
    , 109 (1983) (“[T]he capable­
    of-repetition doctrine applies only in exceptional situa­
    tions, and generally only where the named plaintiff can
    make a reasonable showing that he will again be subjected
    to the alleged illegality”); DeFunis v. Odegaard, 
    416 U.S. 312
    , 318–319 (1974) (per curiam). And in any event, since
    those who are directly affected by the forfeiture practices
    might bring damages actions, the practices do not “evade
    review.” See Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft,
    
    436 U.S. 1
    , 8–9 (1978) (damages claim saves case from
    mootness). Consequently, the case is moot. See, e.g.,
    Preiser, supra, at 403–404; Mills, supra, at 658.
                                 III
       It is less easy to say whether we should order the judg­
    ment below vacated. The statute that enables us to vacate
    a lower court judgment when a case becomes moot is
    flexible, allowing a court to “direct the entry of such ap­
    propriate judgment, decree, or order, or require such
    further proceedings to be had as may be just under the
    circumstances.” 
    28 U.S. C
    . §2106; see also U. S. Bancorp
    Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership, 
    513 U.S. 18
    , 21
    (1994). Applying this statute, we normally do vacate the
    lower court judgment in a moot case because doing so
    “clears the path for future relitigation of the issues be­
    tween the parties,” preserving “the rights of all parties,”
    while prejudicing none “by a decision which . . . was only
    preliminary.” Munsingwear, 340 U. S., at 40.
       In Bancorp, however, we described circumstances where
                      Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            7
    
                          Opinion of the Court
    
    we would not do so. We said that, “[w]here mootness
    results from settlement” rather than “ ‘happenstance,’ ” the
    “losing party has voluntarily forfeited his legal remedy . . .
    [and] thereby surrender[ed] his claim to the equitable
    remedy of vacatur.” 513 U. S., at 25. The plaintiffs, point­
    ing out that the State’s Attorney agreed to return all three
    cars and some of the cash, claim that, with respect to at
    least four of the plaintiffs, this case falls within Bancorp’s
    “settlement” exception.
       In our view, however, this case more closely resembles
    mootness through “happenstance” than through “settle­
    ment”—at least the kind of settlement that the Court
    considered in Bancorp. Bancorp focused upon a bank­
    ruptcy-related dispute that involved a legal question
    whether a bankruptcy court could lawfully confirm a
    debtor’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan if the plan relied
    upon what the debtor said was a special exception (called
    the “new value exception”) to ordinary creditor priority
    rules. Id., at 19–20. The parties contested that legal issue
    in the Bankruptcy Court; they contested it in an appeal of
    the Bankruptcy Court’s order to the Federal District
    Court; they contested it in a further appeal to the Court of
    Appeals; and eventually they contested it in this Court.
    Id., at 20. While the case was pending here, the parties
    settled their differences in the Bankruptcy Court (the
    court where the case originated)—including their differ­
    ences on this particular contested legal point. Ibid. They
    agreed upon a reorganization plan, which they said would
    constitute a settlement that mooted the federal case. Ibid.
       Recognizing that the reorganization plan that the Bank­
    ruptcy Judge confirmed in the case amounted to a settle­
    ment that mooted the case, this Court did not vacate the
    lower court’s judgment. The Court’s reason for leaving the
    lower court’s judgment in place was that mootness was not
    a result of “the vagaries of circumstance.” Id., at 25.
    Rather the party seeking review had “caused the mootness
    8                    ALVAREZ v. SMITH
    
                         Opinion of the Court
    
    by voluntary action.” Id., at 24 (emphasis added). By
    virtue of the settlement, that party had “voluntarily for­
    feited his legal remedy by the ordinary processes of appeal
    or certiorari.” Id., at 25. Hence, compared to mootness
    caused by “happenstance,” considerations of “equity” and
    “fairness” tilted against vacatur. Id., at 25–26.
       Applying these principles to the case before us, we
    conclude that the terminations here fall on the “happen­
    stance” side of the line. The six individual cases proceeded
    through a different court system without any procedural
    link to the federal case before us. To our knowledge (and
    we have examined the state-court docket sheets), no one in
    those cases raised the procedural question at issue here.
    Rather, the issues in those six cases were issues solely of
    state substantive law: Were the cars and the cash forfeit­
    able or not? And court docket sheets suggest that the six
    state cases terminated on substantive grounds in the
    ordinary course of such state proceedings. In the three
    automobile cases, the State voluntarily dismissed the
    proceedings and returned the cars between 11 and 40
    months after the seizures, a long enough time for the
    State to have investigated the matters and to have deter­
    mined (after the termination of any related criminal pro­
    ceedings) for evidentiary reasons that it did not wish to
    claim the cars. See Dockets in People v. 2004 Chevrolet
    Impala, No. 2006–COFO–000296 (Cook County, IL)
    (Brunston’s car returned on July 27, 2009); People v.
    Smith, No. 2006–COFO–000036 (Cook County, IL)
    (Smith’s car returned on May 5, 2008); and People v. 1999
    Chevrolet Malibu, No. 2006–COFO–000288 (Cook County,
    IL) (Perez’s car returned on Jan. 29, 2007). In the remain­
    ing contested case, involving cash, the State voluntarily
    dismissed the proceedings after 14 months, again a long
    enough time for the State to have weighed the evidence
    and found a compromise settlement appropriate on the
    merits. See Docket in People v. $1,500 in U. S. Currency,
                      Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)             9
    
                          Opinion of the Court
    
    No. 2006–COFO–000201 (Cook County, IL) (Waldo’s cash
    returned on Mar. 19, 2007). The disparate dates at which
    plaintiffs’ forfeiture proceedings terminated—11, 14, 27,
    and 40 months after the seizures—indicate that the
    State’s Attorney did not coordinate the resolution of plain­
    tiffs’ state-court cases, either with each other or with
    plaintiffs’ federal civil rights case. Cf. Munsingwear, 340
    U. S., at 39–40 (stating that a lower court judgment would
    have been vacated even though an action of the party
    seeking review had brought about the mootness because
    that action—a commodity being decontrolled by Executive
    Order—was basically unrelated); see also Fleming v.
    Munsingwear, Inc., 
    162 F.2d 125
    , 127 (CA8 1947).
       For these reasons, we believe that the presence of this
    federal case played no significant role in the termination
    of the separate state-court proceedings. This conclusion is
    reinforced by the fact that neither party, although aware
    of Bancorp, suggested the contrary at oral argument.
    Indeed, both parties argued against mootness at oral
    argument, a fact that further suggests that a desire to
    avoid review in this case played no role at all in producing
    the state case terminations. Tr. of Oral Arg. 5–11, 33–38.
    And if the presence of this federal case played no role in
    causing the termination of those state cases, there is not
    present here the kind of “voluntary forfeit[ure]” of a legal
    remedy that led the Court in Bancorp to find that consid­
    erations of “fairness” and “equity” tilted against vacatur.
       We consequently conclude that we should follow our
    ordinary practice, thereby “clear[ing] the path for future
    relitigation of the issues.” Munsingwear, 340 U. S., at 40.
    Thus, nothing in this opinion prevents the plaintiffs from
    bringing a claim for damages based on the conduct alleged
    in their complaint. Id., at 37–40.
       We therefore vacate the judgment of the Court of Ap­
    peals and remand the case to that court with instructions
    to dismiss.
                                                  It is so ordered.
                     Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            1
    
                        Opinion of STEVENS, J.
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                             _________________
    
                              No. 08–351
                             _________________
    
    
          ANITA ALVAREZ, COOK COUNTY STATE’S 
    
           ATTORNEY, PETITIONER v. CHERMANE 
    
                      SMITH ET AL. 
    
     ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
    
               APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
    
                          [December 8, 2009] 
    
    
       JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in part and dissenting in
    part.
       While I agree that this case is moot and join Parts I and
    II of the Court’s opinion, I would not vacate the judgment
    of the Court of Appeals. Following the teaching of our
    decision in U. S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall
    Partnership, 
    513 U.S. 18
     (1994), I would apply the general
    rule against vacating appellate judgments that have be
    come moot because the parties settled.
       Bancorp set forth the basic principles for determining
    whether to vacate a case that has become moot. The
    overriding concern is equitable: “From the beginning we
    have disposed of moot cases in the manner ‘ “most conso
    nant to justice” . . . in view of the nature and character of
    the conditions which have caused the case to become
    moot.’ ” Id., at 24 (quoting United States v. Hamburg-
    Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien Gesellschaft, 
    239 U.S. 466
    , 477–478 (1916), in turn quoting South Spring Hill
    Gold Mining Co. v. Amador Medean Gold Mining Co., 
    145 U.S. 300
    , 302 (1892) (alteration in original)). The “public
    interest” must be considered as part of this equitable
    inquiry, Bancorp, 513 U. S., at 26, 27, and that interest is
    generally better served by leaving appellate judgments
    intact. “ ‘Judicial precedents are presumptively correct
    2                     ALVAREZ v. SMITH
    
                         Opinion of STEVENS, J.
    
    and valuable to the legal community as a whole. They are
    not merely the property of private litigants . . . .’ ” Id., at
    26 (quoting Izumi Seimitsu Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha v.
    U. S. Philips Corp., 
    510 U.S. 27
    , 40 (1993) (STEVENS, J.,
    dissenting)). Hence, we will typically vacate a judgment
    when the party seeking review has been “frustrated by the
    vagaries of circumstance” or “when mootness results from
    unilateral action of the party who prevailed below.” Ban
    corp, 513 U. S., at 25. But we will typically decline to
    vacate when “the party seeking relief from the judgment
    below caused the mootness by voluntary action,” id., at 24,
    including action taken in good faith and in conjunction
    with the opposing party. Even when “respondent agreed
    to [a] settlement that caused the mootness,” it remains
    “petitioner’s burden, as the party seeking relief from the
    status quo of the appellate judgment, to demonstrate not
    merely equivalent responsibility for the mootness, but
    equitable entitlement to the extraordinary remedy of
    vacatur.” Id., at 26. “[M]ootness by reason of settlement
    does not justify vacatur of a judgment under review.” Id.,
    at 29.
      In my view, the Court has misapplied these principles.
    To be sure, the “settlement” between the parties in this
    case might be distinguished from the more conventional
    settlement reached by the parties in Bancorp. And we
    have no evidence to suggest that petitioner returned re
    spondents’ property prior to the conclusion of our review
    with the purpose or expectation of manufacturing moot
    ness. Nevertheless, petitioner’s decision to return the
    automobiles when it did appears to have been legally
    discretionary, as was the “compromise settlement” that it
    reached with respondent Waldo regarding her cash, ante,
    at 8. In light of petitioner’s purposive and voluntary
    action that caused the mootness—along with its failure to
    alert us to the relevant facts or to explain why vacatur
    would serve the public interest—I believe it has failed to
                      Cite as: 558 U. S. ____ (2009)            3
    
                         Opinion of STEVENS, J.
    
    carry its burden to “demonstrate . . . equitable entitlement
    to the extraordinary remedy of vacatur.” Bancorp, 513
    U. S., at 26.
       There was a third option for disposing of this case: We
    could have dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvi
    dently granted. Like denying the petition in the first
    place, that disposition would have preserved the judgment
    below. At the time we granted certiorari on February 23,
    2009, petitioner had already resolved the underlying
    property disputes for five of the six named respondents.
    See ante, at 4, 8–9. It was entirely predictable that the
    final settlement would soon follow. Moreover, the briefing
    in this case has revealed a disagreement over basic de
    scriptive questions of Illinois law, questions that were not
    passed upon below. Compare Brief for Petitioner 60–66
    with Brief for Respondents 41–44. And, of course, we have
    no way of knowing how the District Court would have
    applied the Court of Appeals’ remand order, which left it
    great discretion to “fashion appropriate procedural relief”
    “with the help of the parties.” Smith v. City of Chicago,
    
    524 F.3d 834
    , 838 (CA7 2008). It has become clear that
    the Court was overhasty in deciding to review this case;
    the improvidence of our grant provides an additional
    reason why we should not vacate the work product of our
    colleagues on the Court of Appeals.
       I respectfully dissent from Part III of the Court’s opinion
    and from its judgment.
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 08-351

Citation Numbers: 558 U.S. 87, 130 S. Ct. 576, 175 L. Ed. 2d 447, 2009 U.S. LEXIS 8941

Filed Date: 12/8/2009

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 3/14/2018

Authorities (23)

South Spring Hill Gold Mining Co. v. Amador Medean Gold ... , 145 U.S. 300 ( 1892 )

Mills v. Green , 159 U.S. 651 ( 1895 )

United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co. , 200 U.S. 321 ( 1906 )

So. Pac. Terminal Co. v. Int. Comm. Comm. , 219 U.S. 498 ( 1911 )

United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien ... , 239 U.S. 466 ( 1916 )

Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth , 300 U.S. 227 ( 1937 )

United States v. Munsingwear, Inc. , 340 U.S. 36 ( 1950 )

North Carolina v. Rice , 404 U.S. 244 ( 1971 )

Steffel v. Thompson , 415 U.S. 452 ( 1974 )

DeFunis v. Odegaard , 416 U.S. 312 ( 1974 )

Preiser v. Newkirk , 422 U.S. 395 ( 1975 )

Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft , 436 U.S. 1 ( 1978 )

United States Parole Comm'n v. Geraghty , 445 U.S. 388 ( 1980 )

Los Angeles v. Lyons , 461 U.S. 95 ( 1983 )

United States v. $8,850 , 461 U.S. 555 ( 1983 )

United States v. Von Neumann , 474 U.S. 242 ( 1986 )

Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp. , 494 U.S. 472 ( 1990 )

Izumi Seimitsu Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha v. US Philips Corp. , 510 U.S. 27 ( 1993 )

US Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership , 513 U.S. 18 ( 1994 )

Federal Election Com'n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. , 551 U.S. 449 ( 2007 )

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