Congress passed a bill conditioning the continuance of military
aid to El Salvador upon the President's semiannual certification of
that nation's progress in protecting human rights. The President
neither signed the bill nor returned it to the House of
Representatives where it had originated, claiming that, since
Congress had in the meantime adjourned, the bill had been subjected
to a "pocket veto." Respondent Members of the House then filed suit
against petitioners in Federal District Court, challenging the
purported "pocket veto." The District Court granted summary
judgment for petitioners. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding
that the bill had become law despite the President's effort to
"pocket veto" it, but the bill expired by its own terms a few weeks
The case is moot. Article III requires that there
be a live case or controversy at the time a federal court decides
the case; it is not enough that there may have been a live case or
controversy when the case was decided by the court whose judgment
this Court is reviewing. Here, any issues as to whether the bill in
question became law were mooted when it expired by its own terms,
regardless of whether it had been previously enacted into law or
not. Any controversy over petitioner Acting Archivist's failure to
publish the bill in the Statutes at Large as a duly enacted law or
any dispute as to accounting obligations relating to the
expenditure of funds under the bill is not sufficient to keep the
case from being moot. Pp. 479 U. S.
245 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 759 F.2d 21, vacated and remanded.
REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined.
STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE, J.,
p. 479 U. S. 365
SCALIA, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the
Page 479 U. S. 362
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bill,
H.R. 4042, 88th Cong., 1st Sess. (1983), conditioning the
continuance of United States military aid to El Salvador upon the
President's semiannual certification of El Salvador's progress in
protecting human rights. The President neither signed the bill nor
returned it to the House of Representatives where it had
originated, and took the position that, because Congress had in the
meantime adjourned at the end of its first session, the bill had
been subjected to a "pocket veto" under Article I, § 7, cl. 2, of
the United States Constitution.
Respondents-plaintiffs in this action are 33 individual Members
of the House of Representatives who filed suit in the District
Court challenging the action of the President in seeking to "pocket
veto" the bill in question. The Senate and the Speaker and
Bipartisan Leadership Group of the House of Representatives
intervened in support of the plaintiffs, and are also respondents
here. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of
petitioners-defendants, Barnes v. Carmen, 582 F.
(DC 1984), but a divided Court of Appeals reversed.
Barnes v. Kline,
245 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 759 F.2d 21 (1984).
The majority concluded that respondents had standing to maintain
this action, and that the bill had become a law notwithstanding the
President's effort to "pocket veto" it. The dissenting judge took
the view that respondents did not have standing
Page 479 U. S. 363
to maintain the action. Petitioners Frank G. Burke, Acting
Archivist of the United States, and Ronald Geisler, Executive Clerk
of the White House, contend in this Court that (a) respondents
lacked standing to maintain the action, (b) the Court of Appeals
was incorrect in construing the "Pocket Veto" Clause of the
Constitution as it did, and (c) the case is moot. We agree with
this final contention of petitioners, and hold that the case is
moot. We therefore do not reach either of the other contentions of
The bill in question expired by its own terms on September 30,
1984, a few weeks after the Court of Appeals entered its judgment.
Article III of the Constitution requires that there be a live case
or controversy at the time that a federal court decides the case;
it is not enough that there may have been a live case or
controversy when the case was decided by the court whose judgment
we are reviewing. Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.
, 419 U. S. 402
(1975); Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.
, 394 U. S. 108
(1969). We therefore analyze this case as if respondents had
originally sought to litigate the validity of a statute which by
its terms had already expired. In Diffenderfer v. Central
Baptist Church of Miami, Florida, Inc., 404 U.
(1972) (per curiam), we stated:
"The only relief sought in the complaint was a declaratory
judgment that the now-repealed Fla. Stat. § 192.06 (4) is
unconstitutional as applied to a church parking lot used for
commercial purposes and an injunction against its application to
said lot. This relief is, of course, inappropriate now that the
statute has been repealed."
at 404 U. S.
-415. We see no reason to treat a challenge to the
validity of a statute that has expired any differently from a
challenge to the validity of a statute that has been repealed, and
accordingly hold that any issues concerning whether H.R. 4042
became a law were mooted when that bill expired by its own terms.
The failure of the bill to have any present effect does not depend
on any decision as to whether the President's action was
Page 479 U. S. 364
a "pocket veto"; the bill, by its own terms, became a dead
letter on September 30, 1984, regardless of whether it had
previously been enacted into law or not. See also Hall v.
Beals, 396 U. S. 45
396 U. S. 48
(1969) (per curiam).
Respondents contend that other issues in the case keep it from
being moot. They first assert that there remains a live controversy
over the failure of petitioner Burke to publish H.R. 4042 in the
Statutes at Large as a duly enacted law, in accordance with the
provisions of 1 U.S.C. §§ 106a and 112 (1982 ed., Supp. 1II). This
inaction, respondents cryptically claim, caused the "nullification
of their lawmaking processes." Brief for Respondents Speaker and
Bipartisan Leadership Group 50. We fail to see how any interest in
the "lawmaking process" that might be served by the publication of
duly enacted statutes can survive the life of the statutes
Respondents also claim that funds expended on military aid
without the certification required by H.R. 4042 might at some
future date be subject to recovery under the provisions of 31
U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1349-1351, 3521. These laws relate to the auditing
and account settlement of Government expenditures by the
Comptroller General. But we think that this argument likewise fails
to show that there is a live controversy here. There is no
indication of a presently existing dispute as to the accounting
obligations, and, if such a dispute were to arise, it would not be
between the parties to this case.
"[S]uch speculative contingencies afford no basis for our
passing on the substantive issues [respondents] would have us
Page 479 U. S. 365
cide with respect to the"
now-expired provisions of H.R. 4042. Hall v. Beals,
at 396 U. S.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore vacated, and
the case is remanded to that court with instructions to remand the
case to the District Court with instructions to dismiss the
complaint. United States v. Munsingwear, Inc.,
340 U. S. 36
340 U. S. 39
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE SCALIA took no part in the consideration or decision of
* We reject respondents' argument that the questions of mootness
and standing are necessarily intertwined. We can assume,
that a House of Congress suffers a judicially
cognizable injury when the votes it has cast to pass an otherwise
live statute have been nullified by action on the part of the
Executive Branch. But this injury in "the nullification of
[Congress'] lawmaking processes," Brief for Respondents Speaker and
Bipartisan Leadership Group 50, no longer exists when the claimed
statute has ceased to be effective by its own terms.
JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom JUSTICE WHITE joins, dissenting.
In my opinion, this case is not moot. The United States Senate
and the Bipartisan Leadership Group of the House of Representatives
retain the same sort of interest in obtaining a ruling on the
merits as they did prior to September 30, 1984. Prior to that date,
H.R. 4042, 88th Cong., 1st Sess. (1983), was either a "dead
letter," because it had been killed by a valid pocket veto, or it
was a valid law because the President's attempt to veto it was
ineffective. If H.R. 4042 was a valid law, petitioners had a duty
to publish it in the Statutes at Large of the United States; the
Executive had a duty to discontinue military aid to El Salvador
during the period between January 16, 1983, and September 30, 1984,
unless the President could certify that El Salvador was progressing
in protecting human rights; the Secretary of State had a duty to
report to Congress the amount of any military aid that had been
provided during that period in violation of the terms of H.R. 4042;
and the Comptroller General had, and according to respondents may
still have,* a duty to recover any amounts that were unlawfully
Page 479 U. S. 366
There is, of course, a serious question whether the Senate of
the United States and a group of 33 Congressmen have standing to
enforce those duties in this litigation. But if we assume -- as the
Court does, ante
at 479 U. S. 364
n., and as we should for purposes of analyzing the mootness issue
-- that the Legislature's interest in protecting its work product
from nullification by the Executive would have been sufficient to
support standing prior to September 30, 1984, that interest is also
sufficient to support standing today. As long as the question
whether H.R. 4042 ever became a law continues to have practical
significance, Congress retains its interest in ensuring that its
enactments are given their proper legal effect.
The congressional interest in finding out whether the Executive
has acted illegally in distributing funds to foreign sovereigns
surely survives the period during which the prohibition on
expenditures was in effect. Arguably that interest should be
pursued in congressional committee investigations, rather than
litigation. But if we assume that the federal courthouse was a
proper forum for resolution of the issues tendered by this
complaint prior to September 30, 1984, it remains so today.
Whatever else may be said about this case, it is not moot.
* Respondents argue that a court decision that the pocket veto
was invalid might still result in the return of some funds from the
official or officials who made disbursements without legal
Brief for Respondents Barnes and United
States Senate 33-36 (discussing 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1); 31 U.S.C.