Home > Journals > Michigan Law Review > MLR > Volume 121 > Issue 4 (2023)
Several situations cause a case to be moot. These include settlement agreements, party collusion, changes in litigant status, and extrinsic circumstances thwarting the court from granting any relief. The final reason is unilateral mootness—when a defendant ends a lawsuit against a plaintiff’s wishes by giving them everything for which they ask. In practice, this allows defendants to strategically stop lawsuits when it is clear they are not going to win. By doing so, they prevent the court from handing down adverse precedent and preserve the opportunity to engage in similar behavior with impunity. Courts have established a series of mootness exceptions to limit such gamesmanship. These exceptions are based on vague standards, which do little to guide judges making mootness decisions. The result is that some cases are heard on the merits, while other, nearly identical ones are dismissed. Unilateral mootness fails as a prudential doctrine. It struggles to limit disparate outcomes, prevent defendant gamesmanship, or save judicial resources, and alternative solutions do not fully address these three problems. This Note argues that the best recourse is to scrap unilateral mootness completely. Barring a settlement, collusion, or impossibility of relief, judges should never dismiss a case as moot.
Scott T. MacGuidwin,
Mooting Unilateral Mootness,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol121/iss4/4