Articles Posted in Mootness

This case involved another dispute about whether an involuntary commitment to a hospital and administration of psychotropic drugs was proper. James H. was diagnosed as schizophrenic. The State’s psychiatrist considered James to be a threat to himself and to the public.

James was admitted to a hospital against his wishes for 90 days. He disputed the commitment, but by the time his case was heard in the appellate court, it was moot because the 90-day commitment period lapsed. So the first question for the appellate court, as it is with so many involuntary commitment cases, was whether the mootness doctrine prohibited the court from considering the dispute.

James argued the collateral-consequences exception to the mootness doctrine allowed the appellate court to review his case. “This exception applies where the respondent [James] could be plagued by the adjudication at issue … Respondent argues if faced with civil commitment again, having once been judged mentally ill and in need of commitment, he would now have a history of mental illness which would work against him.” The record showed that James previously had been hospitalized because of mental problems, but it was unclear whether that hospitalization was involuntary.

The police took Joseph P. to the hospital because he was acting emotionally unstable. Against Joseph’s wishes, a trial court later allowed the State’s request that Joseph be involuntarily committed to the hospital and that he be given psychotropic drugs. Joseph appealed the order. He claimed a number of statutory requirements were not followed, and that his liberty interests were violated.

The first question was whether the mootness doctrine precluded the appellate court from considering the appeal. Joseph’s appeal was moot: the commitment order was for 90 days, which had passed by the time the case reached the appellate court. But the question was whether the dispute fell under the “collateral consequences” exception to the mootness doctrine.

The “collateral consequences” exception applies if a party could suffer some future adverse repercussion if the trial court’s order were not reviewed. In Joseph’s case, the Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court concluded the exception should apply. Here’s why:

Marsha Dienstag sued her doctor, Lawrence Margolies, for medical malpractice. She claimed that Margolies did not timely diagnose her cancer. A jury agreed, and gave her a verdict for more than$5.9 million.

Margolies had an “assignment and forbearance” contract with Dienstag. Dienstag agreed not to seek payment of the judgment in excess of Margolies’s malpractice policy limits directly from Margolies. In return, Margolies assigned his claim against his malpractice insurer for “bad faith refusal to settle” within Margolies’s policy limits to Dienstag.

Margolies appealed the judgment. Dienstag pointed to the “forbearance and assignment” agreement and asked the court to dismiss the appeal. She argued that the agreement “renders the instant appeal moot because there is no longer a ‘live controversy’ between the parties.”

Clyde Engle was locked in a battle over payment of attorney fees to Foley and Lardner. Foley represented Engle in federal court litigation involving an insurance liquidation. Engle’s unpaid bill was for more than $1.8 million.

Engle agreed to pay Foley over time, and pledged his interest in bank stock as security. Foley thus took possession of some of the stock. Then Engle sued Foley and asked for a preliminary injunction preventing Foley from selling the stock. The trial court first denied Engle’s request. About two weeks later, the trial court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Foley from selling the stock for seven days. The court stated it would issue a preliminary injunction to that end if Engle would post a bond for the amount he owed as surety. That same day, Engle appealed the original denial of a preliminary injunction.

But Engle did not post the bond. Foley argued, and the First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed, that Engle’s appeal was moot because the trial court gave him the opportunity to get what he asked for − an injunction preventing Foley from selling the bank stock. “Having secured what they [Engle and his wife] basically sought, their appeal must be dismissed.”

A trial court committed Alfred H.H. to the McFarland Mental Health Center in Illinois. Alfred appealed the commitment order. But he was discharged from McFarland while the appeal was pending, so the Illinois Appellate Court dismissed the appeal because it was moot.

Alfred appealed the dismissal to the Illinois Supreme Court. The supreme court rejected all five of Alfred’s arguments, and agreed the appeal was moot and was properly dismissed. Here is how the Illinois Supreme Court assessed the mootness arguments.

1. Alfred argued that the Illinois Mental Health Code gave him a right to appeal. But the court ruled that the Code only gave Alfred the right to appeal the commitment order “in the same manner as in other civil cases.” Alfred’s appeal, just like any other, was subject to the rules of mootness. “…[M]ootness is a factor that the courts will consider in determining whether it is appropriate to decide a given case.” The supreme court also ruled that there was not a case law exception to the mootness doctrine for commitment cases.

Taren Coupland neglected to appear for her trial, so in her absence she was found guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia. A few days later, Taren was sentenced to 24 months of court supervision. Taren also was required to have a drug/alcohol assessment within 30 days, and to complete a remedial program within six months.

A status hearing was set for about a month later, but Taren neglected that hearing, too. When she did appear for a hearing some 90 days later, Taren told the court she had not completed the drug/alcohol assessment. The trial court ruled that Taren was in contempt of court and that she was to be jailed until she completed the evaluation. Taren could purge the contempt order by completing the drug/alcohol evaluation.

Taren asked the court to reconsider the contempt ruling. She argued that the contempt hearing, coming without notice, was a violation of her due process rights. But by the time the trial court heard her request for reconsideration, Taren had completed the evaluation and was not in custody. The trial court thus denied her request for reconsideration because, the court said, it was moot.

Richard Caro wanted to prevent Illinois funds from being spent for stem cell research. The research had been mandated by the governor’s executive orders. Caro sued the Director of the Illinois Department of Health to prevent him from disbursing funds for that purpose. The trial court ruled that the case presented a political question, not a question of law that the court could legitimately decide. So the trial court dismissed the case.

Caro appealed, but before the appellate court considered the case, the Director awarded more than $9 million in grants for stem cell research. Caro wanted the appeal heard anyway, “to work out the appropriate corrective remedy.” The Director wanted the appeal dismissed. He argued that the case was moot because the money already had been disbursed.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court agreed that the case was moot. The appellate court ruled that it could not give Caro what he wanted. Here’s what the court said:

In re Alfred H.H. involved a patient who was involuntarily admitted to the McFarland Mental Health Center in Illinois. Alfred appealed the trial court’s ruling that subjected him to the involuntary admission.

The trial court’s judgment was limited to a 90-day involuntary admission. That time had passed before the case reached the appellate court. So Alfred never got a hearing on appeal because the Fourth District Illinois Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as moot.

The court ruled that Alfred’s appeal did not raise any of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine:

Kevin S. disputed an involuntary commitment order against him that placed him in the Chester Mental Health Center. The commitment order was entered in November 2006, and was good for 180 days. But the case was before the Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court well after the 180 days expired. So appellate jurisdiction the first question the court addressed. Was the case moot because the commitment order had expired, and the appellate court no longer could give Kevin S. the relief he requested? If so, the appellate court would be without jurisdiction to rule on Kevin’s appeal.

The court ruled that the case fell into an exception to the mootness doctrine, and stated that it did have jurisdiction. “Generally, a court will not consider moot questions or render advisory decisions … Questions raised in an appeal that are capable of repetition, yet might evade review because of the short duration of the order, fall under the exception of the mootness doctrine … Given that respondent [Kevin S] has a long history of civil commitment and that it is likely that the circumstances present here may reoccur without the opportunity for a resolution before the case is rendered moot by the expiration of the order, we will address respondent’s contentions.”

Read the whole case, In re Kevin S., No. 5-06-0677 (4/2/08), by clicking here.

This landlord-tenant dispute evoked lots of attention from parties who regularly represent tenants. Beverly Olivier did not pay her rent for her apartment. Circle Management sued her for back rent and possession of the apartment.

Beverly and Circle entered an agreed order that required Beverly to pay monthly use and occupancy charges. When she missed the first payment, Circle moved for immediate possession of the apartment. The trial court granted Circle’s motion as a sanction for violating the agreed order. The court also stayed the case to give Beverly time to pay the use and occupancy charges and thereby purge the possession order.

Beverly appealed the possession order. But she also moved out of the apartment, and Circle rented it to another party. The first issue was whether the appeal was moot. If so, the appellate court would refuse to decide the case. The First District Illinois Court of Appeals acknowledged the general mootness doctrine. “A case becomes moot where it is impossible to render effective relief to the appealing party.”

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