North Carolina v. Rice 8212 77, No. 70

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; DOUGLAS
Citation30 L.Ed.2d 413,92 S.Ct. 402,404 U.S. 244
PartiesNORTH CAROLINA, Petitioner, v. Wayne Claude RICE. —77
Docket NumberNo. 70
Decision Date14 December 1971

404 U.S. 244
92 S.Ct. 402
30 L.Ed.2d 413
NORTH CAROLINA, Petitioner,

v.

Wayne Claude RICE.

No. 70—77.
Argued Oct. 12, 1971.
Decided Dec. 14, 1971.

Jacob L. Safron, Raleigh, N.C., for the petitioner.

Page 245

William W. Van Alstyne, Durham, N.C., for the respondent.

PER CURIAM.

On July 2, 1968, respondent Rice was arrested for driving while intoxicated on a North Carolina state highway. He was tried in the General County Court of Buncombe County, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment for nine months with sentence suspended upon payment of $100 fine and costs. On appeal he was tried de novo in the Superior Court, found guilty, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. State post-conviction procedures were unavailing. On appeal from denial of federal habeas corpus, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that under North Carolina v Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 23 L.Ed.2d 656 (1969), 'the more drastic sentence on the second trial (was) a denial of Federal due process, in that by discouragement it impinges upon the State-given appeal.' 434 F.2d 297, 300 (1970). Although '(h)e was completely discharged by North Carolina on January 24, 1970 * * * this did not moot the case on habeas corpus' because injurious consequences from the conviction might still obtain. Ibid. The judgment was that Rice was entitled to have the record of his conviction expunged. The State's petition for writ of certiorari was granted. 401 U.S. 1008, 91 S.Ct. 1256, 28 L.Ed.2d 544 (1971).

The State claims that Pearce does not apply to a situation where the more severe sentence is imposed after a trial de novo in its Superior Court. We do not reach that question, however, since the threshold issue of moot-

Page 246

ness was improperly disposed of by the Court of Appeals. Although neither party has urged that this case is moot, resolution of the question is essential if federal courts are to function within their constitutional sphere of authority. Early in its history, this Court held that it had no power to issue advisory opinions, Hayburn's Case, 2 Dall. 409, 1 L.Ed. 436 (1792), as interpreted in Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 351—353, 31 S.Ct. 250, 251 252, 55 L.Ed. 246 (1911), and it has frequently repeated that federal courts are without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them. Local No. 8—6, Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers Intern. Union v. Missouri, 361 U.S. 363, 367, 80 S.Ct. 391, 394, 4 L.Ed.2d 373 (1960). To be cognizable in a federal court, a suit 'must be definite and concrete, touching the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests. * * * It must be a real and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree of a conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.' Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240—241, 57 S.Ct. 461, 464, 81 L.Ed. 617 (1937). However, '(m)oot questions require no answer.' Missouri, Kansas & Texas R. Co. v. Ferris, 179 U.S. 602, 606, 21 S.Ct. 231, 233, 45 L.Ed. 337 (1900). Mootness is a jurisdictional question because the Court 'is not empowered to decide moot questions or abstract propositions,' United States v. Alaska S.S. Co., 253 U.S. 113, 116, 40 S.Ct. 448, 449, 64 L.Ed. 808 (1920), quoting California v. San Pablo & Tulare R. Co., 149 U.S. 308, 314, 13 S.Ct. 876, 878, 37 L.Ed. 747 (1893); our impotence 'to review moot cases derives from the requirement of Article III of the Constitution under which the exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a case or controversy.'...

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1360 practice notes
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Civil Action 02-01297 (HHK) (D. D.C. 10/30/2003), Civil Action 02-01297 (HHK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 30, 2003
    ...courts are without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971); McKinney v. Indiana Michigan Power Co., 113 F.3d 770, 772 (7th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Houston, 689 F.2d 901, 902 (9th Cir. 1982)......
  • United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, No. 13-50561
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 31, 2017
    ...requirement "is essential if federal courts are to function within their constitutional sphere of authority." North Carolina v. Rice , 404 U.S. 244, 246, 92 S.Ct. 402, 30 L.Ed.2d 413 (1971) (per curiam). The Constitution constrains federal "judicial Power" to nine classes of "Cases" and "Co......
  • Public Interest Research Group v. Hercules, Inc., Civ. A. No. 89-2291(JBS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • March 31, 1993
    ...830 F. Supp. 1537 The mootness doctrine is well established in the Supreme Court's jurisprudence. See, e.g., North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 92 S.Ct. 402, 30 L.Ed.2d 413 (1971) (per curiam) (citing cases). Mootness is a jurisdictional question derived from Article III of the Constitut......
  • Alejandrez v. Hedgpeth, Case No.: 1:12-cv-00190-AWI-JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 10, 2014
    ...Federal Court is "without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of the litigants before them." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971)per curiam, quoting Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Hayworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-241 (1937). Respondent has lodged with the Court an amended......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1373 cases
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Civil Action 02-01297 (HHK) (D. D.C. 10/30/2003), Civil Action 02-01297 (HHK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 30, 2003
    ...are without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971); McKinney v. Indiana Michigan Power Co., 113 F.3d 770, 772 (7th Cir. 1997); Walker v. Houston, 689 F.2d 901, 902 (9th Cir. 1982) (......
  • United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, No. 13-50561
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 31, 2017
    ..."is essential if federal courts are to function within their constitutional sphere of authority." North Carolina v. Rice , 404 U.S. 244, 246, 92 S.Ct. 402, 30 L.Ed.2d 413 (1971) (per curiam). The Constitution constrains federal "judicial Power" to nine classes of "C......
  • Public Interest Research Group v. Hercules, Inc., Civ. A. No. 89-2291(JBS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • March 31, 1993
    ...830 F. Supp. 1537 The mootness doctrine is well established in the Supreme Court's jurisprudence. See, e.g., North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 92 S.Ct. 402, 30 L.Ed.2d 413 (1971) (per curiam) (citing cases). Mootness is a jurisdictional question derived from Article III of the Constitut......
  • Alejandrez v. Hedgpeth, Case No.: 1:12-cv-00190-AWI-JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 10, 2014
    ...Court is "without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of the litigants before them." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971)per curiam, quoting Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Hayworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-241 (1937). Respondent has lodged with the Court an amend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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