Brief Fact Summary. Marco DeFunis, Jr. applied for admission as a first-year student at the University of Washington Law School, a state-operated institution. When he was denied admission, he brought suit in a Washington trial court claiming that the admissions committee procedures were racially discriminatory.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In federal cases before the Supreme Court, there must be an actual case and controversy which exists at the stages of appellate or certiorari review, and not simply at the date the action is initiated.
Issue. Does an actual controversy exist between the parties, capable of redress by the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court)?
Held. The Court ordered the parties to address the issue of mootness before they proceeded to any other claims in the petition. The Court reasoned that “federal courts are without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the cases before them.” This requirement stems from Article III of the Constitution, under which the exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a case or controversy. No amount of public interest would be sufficient to create an actual case or controversy, and the case was rendered moot because DeFunis was going to graduate from the law school regardless of the Court’s ruling. Thus, the case was rendered moot. “[T]he controversy between the parties has thus clearly ceased to be definite and concrete.”
The clear and central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to eliminate all official state sources of invidious racial discrimination in the States.View Full Point of Law