Alvarez v. Smith

In Alvarez v. Smith, 558 U.S. 87 (2009), the Court found moot claims for injunctive and declaratory relief in relation to cars and cash seized by the police. Through separate state-court proceedings, the State had returned all the cars that it seized, and the plaintiff property owners had either forfeited any relevant cash or had accepted as final the States return of some of it. 558 U. S., at 89, 95-96. In Alvarez, Chicago police officers had seized vehicles and cash from six individuals. The individuals filed suit against the city and two officials, claiming that they were entitled to a timely post-seizure hearing to seek the return of their property. The Court of Appeals ruled for the plaintiffs, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari. At oral argument, the parties informed the Court that the cars and some of the cash had been returned, and that the plaintiffs no longer sought the return of the remainder of the cash. Id., at 92. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs continued to dispute the lawfulness of the States hearing procedures. Id., at 93. Although the plaintiffs refused to settle the case, and the defendants would not concede that the hearing procedures were unlawful, the Court held that the case was moot. As the Court explained, the dispute is no longer embedded in any actual controversy about the plaintiffs particular legal rights, and a dispute solely about the meaning of a law, abstracted from any concrete actual or threatened harm, falls outside the scope of the constitutional words Cases and Controversies. Ibid.