Ashcroft v. Mattis

Decision Date16 May 1977
Docket NumberNo. 76-1179,76-1179
Citation431 U.S. 171,52 L.Ed.2d 219,97 S.Ct. 1739
PartiesJohn D. ASHCROFT, Attorney General of Missouri v. Robert Dean MATTIS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Rehearing Denied June 27, 1977. See 433 U.S. 915, 97 S.Ct. 2990.


Appellee's 18-year-old son was shot and killed by police while attempting to escape arrest. Appellee filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the police officers in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He sought to recover damages, and also to obtain a declaratory judgment that the Missouri statutes authorizing the police action were unconstitutional.1 The District Court held that a defense of good faith had been established, and denied both forms of relief. No appeal was taken from the denial of damages, but appellee did seek review of the denial of declaratory relief. The Eighth Circuit held that declaratory relief was available and remanded for consideration of the merits of the constitutional issue. Mattis v. Schnarr, 502 F.2d 588 (1974).

(1-3) On remand, appellee filed an amended complaint, in which he made no claim for damages. The Missouri Attorney General was allowed to intervene in defense of the statutes, and the case was then submitted on stipulated facts. The District Court upheld the statutes, Mattis v. Schnarr, 404 F.Supp. 643 (1975), but was reversed by a divided Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, 8 Cir., 547 F.2d 1007 (1976). The Attorney General brought an appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2) from the holding that the state statutes were unconstitutional.

Although we are urged to consider the merits of the Court of Appeals' holding, we are unable to do so, because this suit does not now present a live "case or controversy." This suit was brought to determine the police officers' liability for the death of appellee's son. That issue has been decided, and there is no longer any possible basis for a damages claim. Nor is there any possible basis for a declaratory judgment. For a declaratory judgment to issue, there must be a dispute which "calls, not for an advisory opinion upon a hypothetical basis, but for an adjudication of present right upon established facts." Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 242, 57 S.Ct. 461, 465, 81 L.Ed. 617 (1937). See also Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 512, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941). Here, the District Court was asked to answer the hypothetical question whether the defendants would have been liable apart from their defense of good faith. No "present right" of appellee was at stake. Indeed, appellee's primary claim of a present interest in the controversy is that he will obtain emotional satisfaction from a ruling that his son's death was wrongful.2 Appellee's Motion to Affirm 5-6, n. 1. Emotional involvement is a lawsuit is not enough to meet the case-or-controversy requirement;...

To continue reading

Request your trial
240 cases
  • In re Kilen
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • June 28, 1991
    ...S.Ct. 956, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969); Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983); and Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171, 97 S.Ct. 1739, 52 L.Ed.2d 219, reh'g denied, 433 U.S. 915, 97 S.Ct. 2990, 53 L.Ed.2d 1102 (1977), among others. These decisions all stand for the......
  • Doe v. McFaul
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • December 26, 1984 actions seeking a declaratory judgment. More precise explication of these principles is found in Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171, 97 S.Ct. 1739, 52 L.Ed.2d 219 (1977) (per curiam), and City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 In Ashcroft v. Mattis, the p......
  • Hemp Indus. Ass'n v. Drug Enforcement Admin.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • June 10, 2022
    ...cannot simply rest on some abstract desire to know his rights or status under a statute, see, e.g. , Ashcroft v. Mattis , 431 U.S. 171, 172, 97 S.Ct. 1739, 52 L.Ed.2d 219 (1977) ; Golden v. Zwickler , 394 U.S. 103, 109, 89 S.Ct. 956, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969), but rather needs to connect the re......
  • Reigh v. Schleigh
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • October 29, 1984
    ...from the practice sought to be stopped was remote and a case or controversy did not therefore exist. See also Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171, 97 S.Ct. 1739, 52 L.Ed.2d 219 (1977); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 96 S.Ct. 598, 46 L.Ed.2d 561 (1976); Golden, 394 U.S. 103, 89 S.Ct. 956, 22 L.E......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Pronouncements of the U.s. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1984 - 1985
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 14-9, September 1985
    • Invalid date
    ...of deadly force by the police several years ago in Mattis v. Schnarr, 547 F.2d 1007 (8th Cir. 1976), vacated sub nom., Ashcroft v. Mattis, 431 U.S. 171 (1977) (per curiam). In Mattis v. Schnarr, two police officers discovered eighteen-year-old Michael Mattis and a companion in the office of......
  • Pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court in the Criminal Law Field: 1976-1977 Term
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 6-9, September 1977
    • Invalid date
    ...will result in greater reliance on state courts for protection of individual rights. 1. Standing. Ashcroft v. Mattis, ___ U.S. ___, 97 S.Ct. 1739, L.Ed.2d ___ (1977). Appellee, whose son was killed by a Missouri policeman while trying to escape from arrest, sued for damages and a declarator......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT