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Plaintiff’s Free Speech Claim Against Arizona "Mooted"
Description Supreme Court vacated district court finding that the Arizona constitution declaring English the official language is unconstitutional because state employee/plaintiff’s claim became moot after leaving her job with the State of Arizona.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Moot Case, Case-or-Controversy Requirement
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Yniguez, an Arizona state employee sued the State, alleging that a provision in the Arizona constitution that declares English "the official language of the State" and requires the State to "act in English and in no other language" violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
Lower Court Decision The district court struck down the provision in the Arizona constitution. Yniguez resigned her position to work in the private sector. The 9th Circuit heard an appeal from the Arizona attorney general and Arizonans for Official English Committee, the sponsor of the constitutional amendment. The Arizona AG argued that the case was moot because Yniguez was no longer a State employee. The 9th Circuit rejected this view, affirming the decision of the district court and finding Yniguez due nominal damages.
Supreme Court Decision Reversed. Judgment vacated with directions to the district court to dismiss the case. When Yniguez quit State employment, the case-or-controversy requirement was no longer met; the decision of the district court had to be vacated because there was no longer a plaintiff. Because the case was moot, it should not have been retained for adjudication on the merits by the court of appeals.
Citation Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 117 S.Ct. 1055 (1997)

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