Burke v. Barnes, 85-781

Decision Date14 January 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85-781,85-781
Citation479 U.S. 361,93 L.Ed.2d 732,107 S.Ct. 734
PartiesFrank G. BURKE, Acting Archivist of the United States and Ronald Geisler, Executive Clerk of the White House, Petitioners, v. Michael D. BARNES et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Congress passed a bill conditioning the continuance of military aid to El Salvador upon the President's semiannual certification of that nation's progress in protecting human rights. The President neither signed the bill nor returned it to the House of Representatives where it had originated, claiming that since Congress had in the meantime adjourned the bill had been subjected to a "pocket veto." Respondent Members of the House then filed suit against petitioners in Federal District Court, challenging the purported "pocket veto." The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the bill had become law despite the President's effort to "pocket veto" it, but the bill expired by its own terms a few weeks later.

Held: The case is moot. Article III requires that there be a live case or controversy at the time a federal court decides the case; it is not enough that there may have been a live case or controversy when the case was decided by the court whose judgment this Court is reviewing. Here, any issues as to whether the bill in question became law were mooted when it expired by its own terms, regardless of whether it had been previously enacted into law or not. Any controversy over petitioner Acting Archivist's failure to publish the bill in the Statutes at Large as a duly enacted law or any dispute as to accounting obligations relating to the expenditure of funds under the bill is not sufficient to keep the case from being moot. Pp. 363-364.

245 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 759 F.2d 21, vacated and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, J., joined, post, p. 365. SCALIA, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Richard K. Willard, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Morgan J. Frankel, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bill, H.R. 4042, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. (1983), conditioning the continuance of United States military aid to El Salvador upon the President's semiannual certification of El Salvador's progress in protecting human rights. The President neither signed the bill nor returned it to the House of Representatives where it had originated, and took the position that because Congress had in the meantime adjourned at the end of its first session the bill had been subjected to a "pocket veto" under Article I, § 7, cl. 2, of the United States Constitution.

Respondents-plaintiffs in this action are 33 individual Members of the House of Representatives who filed suit in the District Court challenging the action of the President in seeking to "pocket-veto" the bill in question. The Senate and the Speaker and Bipartisan Leadership Group of the House of Representatives intervened in support of the plaintiffs and are also respondents here. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of petitioners-defendants, Barnes v. Carmen, 582 F.Supp. 163 (DC 1984), but a divided Court of Appeals reversed. Barnes v. Kline, 245 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 759 F.2d 21 (1984). The majority concluded that respondents had standing to maintain this action, and that the bill had become a law notwithstanding the President's effort to "pocket-veto" it. The dissenting judge took the view that respondents did not have standing to maintain the action. Petitioners Frank G. Burke, Acting Archivist of the United States, and Ronald Geisler, Executive Clerk of the White House, contend in this Court that (a) respondents lacked stand- ing to maintain the action, (b) the Court of Appeals was incorrect in construing the "Pocket Veto" Clause of the Constitution as it did, and (c) the case is moot. We agree with this final contention of petitioners, and hold that the case is moot. We therefore do not reach either of the other contentions of petitioners.

The bill in question expired by its own terms on September 30, 1984, a few weeks after the Court of Appeals entered its judgment. Article III of the Constitution requires that there be a live case or controversy at the time that a federal court decides the case; it is not enough that there may have been a live case or controversy when the case was decided by the court whose judgment we are reviewing. Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 402, 95 S.Ct. 553, 558, 42 L.Ed.2d 532 (1975); Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 89 S.Ct. 956, 959, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969). We therefore analyze this case as if respondents had originally sought to litigate the validity of a statute which by its terms had already expired. In Diffenderfer v. Central Baptist Church of Miami, Florida, Inc., 404 U.S. 412, 92 S.Ct. 574, 30 L.Ed.2d 567 (1972) (per curiam), we stated:

"The only relief sought in the complaint was a declaratory judgment that the now repealed Fla.Stat. § 192.06(4) is unconstitutional as applied to a church parking lot used for commercial purposes and an injunction against its application to said lot. This relief is, of course, inappropriate now that the statute has been repealed." Id., at 414-415, 92 S.Ct., at 575-576.

We see no reason to treat a challenge to the validity of a statute that has expired any differently from a challenge to the validity of a statute that has been repealed, and accordingly hold that any issues concerning whether H.R. 4042 became a law were mooted when that bill expired by its own terms. The failure of the bill to have any present effect does not depend on any decision as to whether the President's action was a "pocket veto"; the bill by its own terms became a dead letter on September 30, 1984, regardless of whether it had previously been enacted into law or not. See also Hall v. Beals, 396 U.S. 45, 48, 90 S.Ct. 200, 201, 24 L.Ed.2d 214 (1969) (per curiam).

Respondents contend that other issues in the case keep it from being moot. They first assert that there remains a live controversy over the failure of petitioner Burke to publish H.R. 4042 in the Statutes at Large as a duly enacted law, in accordance with the provisions of 1 U.S.C. §§ 106a and 112 (1982 ed., Supp. III). This inaction, respondents cryptically claim, caused the "nullification of their lawmaking processes." Brief for Respondents Speaker and Bipartisan Leadership Group 50. We fail to see how any interest in the "lawmaking process" that might be served by the publication of duly enacted statutes can survive the life of the statutes themselves.*

Respondents also claim that funds expended on military aid without the certification required by H.R. 4042 might at some future date be subject to recovery under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1349-1351, 3521. These laws relate to the auditing and account settlement of Government expenditures by the Comptroller General. But we think that this...

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