May 18, 2011

If the parties were to settle after a decision is rendered, would the California Supreme Court vacate its decision and dismiss review?

A recent article by Sheri Qualters in The Recorder discusses Tivo Inc. v. EchoStar Corp., Slip Op., 2011 WL 1767314 (C.A.Fed. (Tex.)) in which the Federal Circuit issued an en banc order denying the parties’ joint motion to dismiss the appeal after the parties reached a settlement. The Federal Circuit noted that the parties made their joint motion and informed the court of their settlement after it had rendered its decision. The court explained that if it were to grant the parties’ motion at this late stage, the result would be modification or vacatur of its judgment, “‘which is neither required nor a proper use of the judicial system.’”

This got us thinking about how the California Supreme Court would handle the same situation. We found no cases in which the parties informed the Court of their settlement after the Court had rendered its decision. However, on several occasions the Court has gone on to reach a decision after the parties informed it of their settlement before oral argument. In such situations, it typically invokes the rule that it retains jurisdiction to adjudicate a moot controversy where it raises issues of continuing public importance. (Brown, Winfield & Canzoneri, Inc. v. Superior Court (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1233, 1240, fn. 1; Maynard v. Brandon (2005) 36 Cal.4th 364, 383; Torres v. Parkhouse Tire Service, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 995, 1001; People ex rel. Lungren v. Superior Court (1996) 14 Cal.4th 294, 300; Burch v. George (1994) 7 Cal.4th 246, 294 [“We have inherent power to retain a matter, even though it has been settled and is technically moot, where the issues are important and of continuing interest”].) Therefore, we think the Court likely would reach the same result as the Federal Circuit in Tivo if parties were to attempt to render a decision moot by settlement.

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