Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Moot Definition:

A matter where the issue raised concerns a hypothetical or abstract question

Related Terms: Justiciability

Also mootness, or a moot point: a side issue, problem or question which does not have to be decided to resolve the main issues in a dispute.

In Winder v British Columbia, Justice Cumming wrote:

"[A] matter will be considered moot where the issue raised concerns a hypothetical or abstract question."

Sometimes, the entire case before the court can become moot, such as in the event of the death of a party. In Borowski, Justice Sopinka wrote of:

"The approach in recent cases involves a two-step analysis. First it is necessary to determine whether the required tangible and concrete dispute has disappeared and the issues have become academic. Second, if the response to the first question is affirmative, it is necessary to decide if the court should exercise its discretion to hear the case. The cases do not always make it clear whether the term moot applies to cases that do not present a concrete controversy or whether the term applies only to such of those cases as the court declines to hear. In the interest of clarity, I consider that a case is moot if it fails to meet the live controversy test. A court may nonetheless elect to address a moot issue if the circumstances warrant."

Note these words cited by Justice Underwood of the Supreme Court of Illinois in Re Estate of Brooks in the context of alleged mootness arising during an appeal:

"The general rule is that when a reviewing court has notice of facts which show that only moot questions or mere abstract propositions are involved or where the substantial questions involved in the trial court no longer exist, it will dismiss the appeal.....

"But when the issue presented is of substantial public interest, a well-recognized exception exists to the general rule that a case which has become moot will be dismissed upon appeal. Among the criteria considered in determining the existence of the requisite degree of public interest are the public or private nature of the question presented, the desirability of an authoritative determination for the future guidance of public officers, and the likelihood of future recurrence of the question."

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