Monday, February 18, 2013

Appellate Procedure: Parties Cannot Stipulate Around Mootness

In Re L.O. (Navajo Nation v. State), 2012 UT 23, April 13, 2012

L.O. was a minor child and member of the Navajo Nation.  DCFS removed L.O. from the child’s parents and placed with a foster family.  L.O.’s parents relinquished their parental rights, and a Petition for Adoption was filed.  The Navajo Nation objected to the adoption and moved to transfer jurisdiction to the Nation.  The Juvenile Court denied the motion because the Nation had waited too long, and allowed the foster parents to adopt.  The Nation Appealed.

Before the Appeal could be heard, the Nation consented to the adoption.  However, DCFS and the Nation agreed that the issues would not be mooted and that the appeal could go forward because of the important public policy grounds.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the case because the issues were moot.  The Nation petitioned cert which resulted in this opinion.  The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and found that the parties cannot stipulate around mootness.  In short, if the issue is dead, the parties cannot resurrect the issue by agreeing that it is alive.  This case also failed to qualify for moot-review because that is likely to evade review because of the short duration of the claim at issue.

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