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U.S. Supreme Court

Iron Arrow Honor Soc'y v. Heckler, 464 U.S. 67 (1983)

Iron Arrow Honor Society v. Heckler

No. 83-118

Decided November 14, 1983

464 U.S. 67


Petitioner Iron Arrow Honor Society (hereafter petitioner), an all-male honorary organization at the University of Miami, has traditionally conducted its initiation "tapping" ceremony on the University's campus. In 1976, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) notified the University that the HEW had determined that the University was violating an HEW regulation implementing § 901(a) of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prohibiting a university that receives federal funds from giving "significant assistance" to any organization that discriminates on the basis of sex in providing any aid, benefit, or service to students. The University thereafter prohibited the "tapping" ceremony. Petitioner then brought an action in Federal District Court, seeking to prevent the Secretary from interpreting the regulation so as to require the University to ban petitioner's activities from campus. Before the Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed a summary judgment for the Secretary, the president of the University wrote a letter to petitioner stating that it could not return to or conduct its activities on campus until it discontinued its discriminatory membership policy, and that this was the University's position regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. The Court of Appeals held that the letter did not moot the case, because it could still grant some relief to petitioner.

Held: The president's letter renders the case moot, and the Court of Appeals had no jurisdiction to decide it.

(a) To satisfy the Art. III case-or-controversy requirement, a litigant must have suffered some actual injury that can be redressed by a favorable judicial decision. Here, no resolution of the dispute can redress petitioner's grievance. Whatever the correctness of the Secretary's interpretation of the regulation in question, the University has stated unequivocally that it will not allow petitioner to conduct its activities on campus as long as it refuses to admit women. It is the University's action, not that of the Secretary, that excludes petitioner.

(b) Whether or not the Court of Appeals could grant relief to petitioner against an enforcement action other than one seeking to ban petitioner from campus need not be decided, as the Secretary is not requesting chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 464 U. S. 68

the University to take such additional steps, and petitioner has not sought in this lawsuit to prevent the University from doing so.

(c) Since this case concerns the effect of the voluntary acts of a third-party nondefendant, it is not controlled by the line of cases in which it has been held that the voluntary discontinuance of challenged activities by a defendant does not moot the lawsuit absent proof that "there is no reasonable likelihood that the wrong will be repeated." But even assuming that such line of cases applies, it does not appear on the basis of the letter in question that there is any "reasonable likelihood" that the University will change its mind and decide to invite petitioner to return to campus.

Certiorari granted; 702 F.2d 549, vacated and remanded.

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