This case raises the question whether a trial court's denial of a motion for certification of a class may be reviewed on appeal after the named plaintiff's personal claim has become "moot." The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a named plaintiff, respondent here, who brought a class action challenging the validity of the United States Parole Commission's Parole Release Guidelines, could continue his appeal of a ruling denying class certification even though he had been released from prison while the appeal was pending. We granted certiorari, 440 U.S. 945 (1979), to consider this issue of substantial significance, under Art. III of the Constitution, to class-action litigation,
In 1973, the United States Parole Board adopted explicit Parole Release Guidelines for adult prisoners.
Subsequently, in 1976, Congress enacted the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act (PCRA), Pub. L. 94-233, 90 Stat. 219, 18 U. S. C. §§ 4201-4218. This Act provided the first legislative authorization for parole release guidelines. It required the newly created Parole Commission to "promulgate rules and regulations establishing guidelines for the powe[r] . . . to grant or deny an application or recommendation to parole any eligible prisoner." § 4203. Before releasing a prisoner on parole, the Commission must find, "upon consideration of the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the prisoner," that release "would not depreciate the seriousness of his offense or promote disrespect for the law" and that it "would not jeopardize the public welfare." § 4206 (a).
Respondent John M. Geraghty was convicted in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois of
Geraghty later, pursuant to a motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35, obtained from the District Court a reduction of his sentence to 30 months. The court granted the motion because, in the court's view, application of the guidelines would frustrate the sentencing judge's intent with respect to the length of time Geraghty would serve in prison. United States v. Braasch, No. 72 CR 979 (ND Ill., Oct. 9, 1975), appeal dism'd and mandamus denied, 542 F.2d 442 (CA7 1976).
Geraghty then applied for release on parole. His first application was denied in January 1976 with the following explanation:
If the customary release date applicable to respondent under the guidelines were adhered to, he would not be paroled before serving his entire sentence minus good-time credits. Geraghty applied for parole again in June 1976; that application was denied for the same reasons. He then instituted this civil suit as a class action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the guidelines as inconsistent with the PCRA and the Constitution, and questioning the procedures by which the guidelines were applied to his case.
Respondent sought certification of a class of "all federal prisoners who are or who will become eligible for release on parole." Id., at 17. Without ruling on Geraghty's motion, the court transferred the case to the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where respondent was incarcerated. Geraghty continued to press his motion for class certification, but the court postponed ruling on the motion until it was prepared to render a decision on cross-motions for summary judgment.
The District Court subsequently denied Geraghty's request for class certification and granted summary judgment for petitioners on all the claims Geraghty asserted. 429 F.Supp. 737 (1977). The court regarded respondent's action as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, to which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 applied only by analogy. It denied class certification as "neither necessary nor appropriate." 429 F. Supp., at 740. A class action was "necessary" only to avoid mootness. The court found such a consideration not comprehended by Rule 23. It found class certification inappropriate because Geraghty raised certain individual issues and, inasmuch as some prisoners might be benefited by the guidelines, because his claims were not typical of the entire proposed class. 429 F. Supp., at 740-741. On the merits, the court ruled that the guidelines are consistent with the PCRA and
Respondent, individually "and on behalf of a class," appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. App. 29. Thereafter, another prisoner, Becher, who had been denied parole through application of the guidelines and who was represented by Geraghty's counsel, moved to intervene. Becher sought intervention to ensure that the legal issue raised by Geraghty on behalf of the class "will not escape review in the appeal in this case." Pet. to Intervene After Judgment 2. The District Court, concluding that the filing of Geraghty's notice of appeal had divested it of jurisdiction, denied the petition to intervene. Becher then filed a timely notice of appeal from the denial of intervention. The two appeals were consolidated.
On June 30, 1977, before any brief had been filed in the Court of Appeals, Geraghty was mandatorily released from prison; he had served 22 months of his sentence, and had earned good-time credits for the rest. Petitioners then moved to dismiss the appeals as moot. The appellate court reserved decision of the motion to dismiss until consideration of the merits.
The Court of Appeals, concluding that the litigation was not moot, reversed the judgment of the District Court and remanded the case for further proceedings. 579 F.2d 238 (CA3 1978). If a class had been certified by the District Court, mootness of respondent Geraghty's personal claim would not have rendered the controversy moot. See, e. g., Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393 (1975). The Court of Appeals reasoned that an erroneous denial of a class certification should not lead to the opposite result. 579 F. 2d, at 248-252. Rather, certification of a "certifiable" class, that erroneously had been denied, relates back to the original denial and thus preserves jurisdiction. Ibid.
On the question whether certification erroneously had been denied, the Court of Appeals held that necessity is not a prerequisite
In order to avoid "improvidently dissipat[ing] judicial effort," id., at 254, the Court of Appeals went on to consider whether the trial court had decided the merits of respondent's case properly. The District Court's entry of summary judgment was found to be error because "if Geraghty's recapitulation of the function and genesis of the guidelines is supported by the evidence," the guidelines "may well be" unauthorized or unconstitutional. Id., at 259, 268. Thus, the dispute on the merits also was remanded for further factual development.
Article III of the Constitution limits federal "judicial Power," that is, federal-court jurisdiction, to "Cases" and "Controversies." This case-or-controversy limitation serves
It is clear that the controversy over the validity of the Parole Release Guidelines is still a "live" one between petitioners and at least some members of the class respondent seeks to represent. This is demonstrated by the fact that prisoners currently affected by the guidelines have moved to be substituted, or to intervene, as "named" respondents in this Court. See n. 1, supra. We therefore are concerned here with the second aspect of mootness, that is, the parties' interest in the litigation. The Court has referred to this concept as the "personal stake" requirement. E. g., Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U.S. 747, 755 (1976); Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204 (1962).
The personal-stake requirement relates to the first purpose of the case-or-controversy doctrine—limiting judicial power to disputes capable of judicial resolution. The Court in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S., at 100-101, stated:
See also Schlesinger v. Reservists to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 216-218 (1974).
The "personal stake" aspect of mootness doctrine also serves primarily the purpose of assuring that federal courts are presented with disputes they are capable of resolving. One commentator has defined mootness as "the doctrine of standing set in a time frame: The requisite personal interest that must exist at the commencement of the litigation (standing) must continue throughout its existence (mootness)." Monaghan, Constitutional Adjudication: The Who and When, 82 Yale L. J. 1363, 1384 (1973).
On several occasions the Court has considered the application of the "personal stake" requirement in the class-action context. In Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393 (1975), it held that mootness of the named plaintiff's individual claim after a class has been duly certified does not render the action moot. It reasoned that "even though appellees . . . might not again enforce the Iowa durational residency requirement against [the class representative], it is clear that they will enforce it against those persons in the class that appellant sought to represent and that the District Court certified." Id., at 400. The Court stated specifically that an Art. III case or controversy "may exist . . . between a named defendant and a member of the class represented by the named plaintiff, even
Although one might argue that Sosna contains at least an implication that the critical factor for Art. III purposes is the timing of class certification, other cases, applying a "relation back" approach, clearly demonstrate that timing is not crucial. When the claim on the merits is "capable of repetition, yet evading review," the named plaintiff may litigate the class certification issue despite loss of his personal stake in the outcome of the litigation. E. g., Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 110, n. 11 (1975). The "capable of repetition, yet evading review" doctrine, to be sure, was developed outside the class-action context. See Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. ICC, 219 U.S. 498, 514-515 (1911). But it has been applied where the named plaintiff does have a personal stake at the outset of the lawsuit, and where the claim may arise again with respect to that plaintiff; the litigation then may continue notwithstanding the named plaintiff's current lack of a personal stake. See, e. g., Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147, 149 (1975); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 123-125 (1973). Since the litigant faces some likelihood of becoming involved in the same controversy in the future, vigorous advocacy can be expected to continue.
When, however, there is no chance that the named plaintiff's expired claim will reoccur, mootness still can be avoided through certification of a class prior to expiration of the named plaintiff's personal claim. E. g., Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U. S., at 752-757. See Kremens v. Bartley,
See also Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U. S., at 402, n. 11.
In two different contexts the Court has stated that the proposed class representative who proceeds to a judgment on the merits may appeal denial of class certification. First, this assumption was "an important ingredient," Deposit Guaranty Nat. Bank v. Roper, ante, at 338, in the rejection of interlocutory appeals, "as of right," of class certification denials. Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 469, 470, n. 15 (1978). The Court reasoned that denial of class status will not necessarily be the "death knell" of a small-claimant action, since there still remains "the prospect of prevailing on
Second, in United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385, 393-395 (1977), the Court held that a putative class member may intervene, for the purpose of appealing the denial of a class certification motion, after the named plaintiffs' claims have been satisfied and judgment entered in their favor. Underlying that decision was the view that "refusal to certify was subject to appellate review after final judgment at the behest of the named plaintiffs." Id., at 393. See also Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U. S., at 469. And today, the Court holds that named plaintiffs whose claims are satisfied through entry of judgment over their objections may appeal the denial of a class certification ruling. Deposit Guaranty Nat. Bank v. Roper, ante, p. 326.
Gerstein, McDonald, and Roper are all examples of cases found not to be moot, despite the loss of a "personal stake" in the merits of the litigation by the proposed class representative. The interest of the named plaintiffs in Gerstein was precisely the same as that of Geraghty here. Similarly, after judgment had been entered in their favor, the named plaintiffs in McDonald had no continuing narrow personal stake in the outcome of the class claims. And in Roper the Court points out that an individual controversy is rendered moot, in the strict Art. III sense, by payment and satisfaction of a final judgment. Ante, at 333.
These cases demonstrate the flexible character of the Art. III mootness doctrine.
Perhaps somewhat anticipating today's decision in Roper, petitioners argue that the situation presented is entirely different when mootness of the individual claim is caused by "expiration" of the claim, rather than by a judgment on the claim. They assert that a proposed class representative who individually prevails on the merits still has a "personal stake" in the outcome of the litigation, while the named plaintiff whose claim is truly moot does not. In the latter situation, where no class has been certified, there is no party before the court with a live claim, and it follows, it is said, that we have no jurisdiction to consider whether a class should have been certified. Brief for Petitioners 37-39.
We do not find this distinction persuasive. As has been noted earlier, Geraghty's "personal stake" in the outcome of the litigation is, in a practical sense, no different from that of the putative class representatives in Roper. Further, the opinion in Roper indicates that the approach to take in applying Art. III is issue by issue. "Nor does a confession of judgment
Similarly, the fact that a named plaintiff's substantive claims are mooted due to an occurrence other than a judgment on the merits does not mean that all the other issues in the case are mooted. A plaintiff who brings a class action presents two separate issues for judicial resolution. One is the claim on the merits; the other is the claim that he is entitled to represent a class. "The denial of class certification stands as an adjudication of one of the issues litigated," Roper, ante, at 336. We think that in determining whether the plaintiff may continue to press the class certification claim, after the claim on the merits "expires," we must look to the nature of the "personal stake" in the class certification claim. Determining Art. III's "uncertain and shifting contours," see Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S., at 97, with respect to nontraditional forms of litigation, such as the class action, requires reference to the purposes of the case-or-controversy requirement.
Application of the personal-stake requirement to a procedural claim, such as the right to represent a class, is not automatic or readily resolved. A "legally cognizable interest," as the Court described it in Powell v. McCormack, 395 U. S., at 496, in the traditional sense rarely ever exists with respect to the class certification claim.
As noted above, the purpose of the "personal stake" requirement is to assure that the case is in a form capable of judicial resolution. The imperatives of a dispute capable of judicial resolution are sharply presented issues in a concrete factual setting and self-interested parties vigorously advocating opposing positions. Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U. S., at 753-756; Baker v. Carr, 369 U. S., at 204; Poe v. Ullman, 367 U. S., at 503 (plurality opinion). We conclude that these elements can exist with respect to the class certification issue notwithstanding the fact that the named plaintiff's claim on the merits has expired. The question whether class certification is appropriate remains as a concrete, sharply presented
We therefore hold that an action brought on behalf of a class does not become moot upon expiration of the named plaintiff's substantive claim, even though class certification has been denied.
Our holding is limited to the appeal of the denial of the class certification motion. A named plaintiff whose claim expires may not continue to press the appeal on the merits until a class has been properly certified. See Roper, ante, at 336-337. If, on appeal, it is determined that class certification properly was denied, the claim on the merits must be dismissed as moot.
We need not decide here whether Geraghty is a proper representative for the purpose of representing the class on the merits. No class as yet has been certified. Upon remand, the District Court can determine whether Geraghty may continue to press the class claims or whether another representative would be appropriate. We decide only that Geraghty was a proper representative for the purpose of appealing the ruling denying certification of the class that he initially defined. Thus, it was not improper for the Court of Appeals to consider whether the District Court should have granted class certification.
We turn now to the question whether the Court of Appeals' decision on the District Court's class certification ruling was proper. Petitioners assert that the Court of Appeals erred in requiring the District Court to consider the possibility of certifying
It would be inappropriate for this Court to reach the merits of this controversy in the present posture of the case. Our holding that the case is not moot extends only to the appeal of the class certification denial. If the District Court again denies class certification, and that decision is affirmed, the controversy on the merits will be moot. Furthermore, although the Court of Appeals commented upon the merits for the sole purpose of avoiding waste of judicial resources, it did not reach a final conclusion on the validity of the guidelines. Rather, it held only that summary judgment was improper and remanded for further factual development. Given the interlocutory posture of the case before us, we must defer decision on the merits of respondent's case until after it is determined affirmatively that a class properly can be certified.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE STEWART, and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST join, dissenting.
Respondent filed this suit as a class action while he was serving time in a federal prison. He sought to represent a class composed of "all federal prisoners who are or who will become eligible for release on parole." App. 17. The District Court denied class certification and granted summary judgment for petitioners. Respondent appealed, but before briefs were filed, he was unconditionally released from prison. Petitioners then moved to dismiss the appeal as moot. The Court of Appeals denied the motion, reversed the judgment of the District Court, and remanded the case for further proceedings. Conceding that respondent's personal claim was moot, the Court of Appeals nevertheless concluded that respondent properly could appeal the denial of class certification. The Court today agrees with this conclusion.
The Court's analysis proceeds in two steps. First, it says that mootness is a "flexible" doctrine which may be adapted as we see fit to "nontraditional" forms of litigation. Ante, at 400-402. Second, the Court holds that the named plaintiff has a right "analogous to the private attorney general concept" to appeal the denial of class certification even when his personal claim for relief is moot. Ante, at 402-404. Both steps are significant departures from settled law that rationally cannot be confined to the narrow issue presented in this case. Accordingly, I dissent.
As the Court observes, this case involves the "personal stake" aspect of the mootness doctrine. Ante, at 396. There
Recent decisions of this Court have considered the personal stake requirement with some care. When the issue is presented at the outset of litigation as a question of standing to sue, we have held that the personal stake requirement has a double aspect. On the one hand, it derives from Art. III limitations on the power of the federal courts. On the other, it embodies additional, self-imposed restraints on the exercise of judicial power. E. g., Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 112 (1976); Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). The prudential aspect of standing aptly is described as a doctrine of uncertain contours. Ante, at 402. But the constitutional minimum has been given definite content: "In order to satisfy Art. III, the plaintiff must show that he personally has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant." Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 99 (1979).
Since the question is one of power, the practical importance of review cannot control. Sosna v. Iowa, supra, at 401, n. 9; Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24, 36 (1974); United States v. Alaska S. S. Co., 253 U.S. 113, 116 (1920). Nor can public interest in the resolution of an issue replace the
These cases demonstrate, contrary to the Court's view today, that the core requirement of a personal stake in the outcome is not "flexible." Indeed, the rule barring litigation by those who have no interest of their own at stake is applied so rigorously that it has been termed the "one major proposition" in the law of standing to which "the federal courts have consistently adhered . . . without exception." Davis, Standing: Taxpayers and Others, 35 U. Chi. L. Rev. 601, 617 (1968) (emphasis deleted).
The forgoing decisions establish principles that the Court has applied consistently. These principles were developed outside the class action context. But Art. III contains no exception for class actions. Thus, we have held that a putative class representative who alleges no individual injury "may [not] seek relief on behalf of himself or any other member of the class." O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 494 (1974). Only after a class has been certified in accordance with Rule 23 can it "acquir[e] a legal status separate from the interest asserted by [the named plaintiff]." Sosna v. Iowa, supra, at 399. "Given a properly certified class," the live interests of unnamed but identifiable class members may supply the personal stake required by Art. III when the named plaintiff's individual claim becomes moot. Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U.S. 747, 755-756 (1976); Sosna v. Iowa, supra, at 402.
This case presents a fundamentally different situation. No class has been certified, and the lone plaintiff no longer has any personal stake in the litigation.
The Court announces today for the first time—and without attempting to reconcile the many cases to the contrary—that there are two categories of "the Art. III mootness doctrine": "flexible" and "less flexible." Ante, at 400, and n. 7. The Court then relies on cases said to demonstrate the application of "flexible" mootness to class action litigation. The cases principally relied upon are Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 110-111, n. 11 (1975), United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385 (1977), and today's decision in Deposit Guaranty Nat. Bank v. Roper, ante, p. 326. Each case is said to show that a class action is not mooted by the loss of the class representative's personal stake in the outcome of the lawsuit, even though no class has been certified. Ante, at 400. Sosna itself is cited for the proposition that the requirements of Art. III may be met "through means other than the traditional requirement of a `personal stake in the outcome.'" Ante, at 404. In my view, the Court misreads these precedents.
In Sosna, the Court simply acknowledged that actual class certification gives legal recognition to additional adverse parties. Cf. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U. S., at 240.
McDonald and Roper sanction some appeals from the denial of class certification notwithstanding satisfaction of the class representative's claim on the merits. But neither case holds that Art. III may be satisfied in the absence of a personal stake in the outcome. In McDonald, a putative class member intervened within the statutory time limit to appeal the certification ruling. 432 U. S., at 390.
There is dictum in McDonald that the "refusal to certify was subject to appellate review after final judgment at the behest of the named plaintiffs. . . ." 432 U. S., at 393. That gratuitous sentence, repeated in Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay,
It is far from apparent how Roper can be thought to support the decision in this case. Indeed, the opinion by THE CHIEF JUSTICE in Roper reaffirms the obligation of a federal court to dismiss an appeal when the parties no longer retain the personal stake in the outcome required by Art. III. Ibid. Here, there is not even a speculative interest in sharing costs, and respondent affirmatively denies that he retains any stake or personal interest in the outcome of his appeal. See supra, at 413-414. Thus, a fact that was critical to the analysis in Roper is absent in this case. One can disagree with that analysis yet conclude that Roper affords no support for the Court's ruling here.
The cases cited by the Court as "less flexible"—and therefore less authoritative—apply established Art. III doctrine in cases closely analogous to this one. Indianapolis School Comm'rs v. Jacobs, 420 U.S. 128 (1975) (per curiam); Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147 (1975) (per curiam); Pasadena City Board of Education v. Spangler, 427 U.S. 424, 430
In Jacobs, six named plaintiffs brought a class action to challenge certain high school regulations. The District Court stated on the record that class treatment was appropriate and that the plaintiffs were proper representatives, but the court failed to comply with Rule 23. After this Court granted review, we were informed that the named plaintiffs had graduated. We held that the action was entirely moot because the "class action was never properly certified nor the class properly identified by the District Court." 420 U. S., at 130.
The Court suggests that Jacobs and Spangler may be distinguished because the plaintiffs there were not appealing the denial of class certification. The Court overlooks the fact that in each case the class representatives were defending a judgment on the merits from which the defendants had appealed. The plaintiffs/respondents continued vigorously to assert the claims of the class. They did not take the procedural route of appealing a denial of certification only because the District Court had granted—albeit defectively—class status. We chose not to remand for correction of the oral certification order in Jacobs because we recognized that the putative class representative had suffered no injury that could be redressed by adequate certification. Underlying Jacobs, and Bradford as well, is the elementary principle that no one has a personal stake in obtaining relief for third parties, through the mechanism of class certification or otherwise.
While the Court's new concept of "flexible" mootness is unprecedented, the content given that concept is even more disturbing. The Court splits the class aspects of this action into two separate "claims": (i) that the action may be maintained by respondent on behalf of a class, and (ii) that the class is entitled to relief on the merits. Since no class has been certified, the Court concedes that the claim on the merits is moot. Ante, at 404, 408. But respondent is said to
The Court makes no effort to identify any injury to respondent that may be redressed by, or any benefit to respondent that may accrue from, a favorable ruling on the certification question.
Since neither Rule 23 nor the private attorney general concept can fill the jurisdictional gap, the Court's new perception of Art. III requirements must rest entirely on its tripartite test of concrete adverseness. Although the components of the test are no strangers to our Art. III jurisprudence, they operate only in "`cases confessedly within [the Court's] jurisdiction.'" Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U. S., at 755-756, and n. 8, quoting Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 97 (1968). The Court cites no decision that has premised jurisdiction upon the bare existence of a sharply presented issue in a concrete and vigorously argued case, and I am aware of none.
The Court reasons that its departure from precedent is compelled by the difficulty of identifying a personal stake in a "procedural claim," particularly in "nontraditional forms of litigation." Ante, at 402. But the Court has created a false dilemma. As noted in Roper, class certification issues are "ancillary to the litigation of substantive claims." Ante,
Class actions may advance significantly the administration of justice in appropriate cases. Indeed, the class action is scarcely a new idea. Rule 23 codifies, and was intended to clarify, procedures for dealing with a form of action long known in equity. See 1 H. Newberg, Class Actions § 1004 (1977). That federal jurisdiction can attach to the class aspect of litigation involving individual claims has never been questioned. But even when we deal with truly new procedural devices, our freedom to "adapt" Art. III is limited to the recognition of different "`means for presenting a case or controversy otherwise cognizable by the federal courts.'" Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U. S., at 240 (Declaratory Judgment Act), quoting Nashville, C. & St. L. R. Co. v. Wallace, 288 U.S. 249, 264 (1933) (emphasis added). The effect of mootness on the vitality of a device like the class action may be a relevant prudential consideration.
In short, this is a case in which the putative class representative— respondent here—no longer has the slightest interest in the injuries alleged in his complaint. No member of the class is before the Court; indeed, none has been identified. The case therefore lacks a plaintiff with the minimal personal stake that is a constitutional prerequisite to the jurisdiction of an Art. III court. In any realistic sense, the only persons before this Court who appear to have an interest are the defendants and a lawyer who no longer has a client.
I would vacate the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand with instructions to dismiss the action as moot.
While the petition for a writ of certiorari was pending, respondent Geraghty filed a motion to substitute as respondents in this Court five prisoners, then incarcerated, who also were represented by Geraghty's attorneys. In the alternative, the prisoners sought to intervene. We deferred our ruling on the motion to the hearing of the case on the merits. 440 U.S. 945 (1979). These prisoners, or most of them, now also have been released from incarceration. On September 25, 1979, a supplement to the motion to substitute or intervene was filed, proposing six new substitute respondents or intervenors; each of these is a presently incarcerated federal prisoner who, allegedly, has been adversely affected by the guidelines and who is represented by Geraghty's counsel.
Since we hold that respondent may continue to litigate the class certification issue, there is no need for us to consider whether the motion should be granted in order to prevent the case from being moot. We conclude that the District Court initially should rule on the motion.
The erosion of the strict, formalistic perception of Art. III was begun well before today's decision. For example, the protestations of the dissent are strikingly reminiscent of Mr. Justice Harlan's dissent in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 116, in 1968. Mr. Justice Harlan hailed the taxpayer-standing rule pronounced in that case as a "new doctrine" resting "on premises that do not withstand analysis." Id., at 117. He felt that the problems presented by taxpayer standing "involve nothing less than the proper functioning of the federal courts, and so run to the roots of our constitutional system." Id., at 116. The taxpayers were thought to complain as "private attorneys-general," and "[t]he interests they represent, and the rights they espouse, are bereft of any personal or proprietary coloration." Id., at 119. Such taxpayer actions "are and must be . . . `public actions' brought to vindicate public rights." Id., at 120.
Notwithstanding the taxpayers' lack of a formalistic "personal stake," even Mr. Justice Harlan felt that the case should be held nonjusticiable on purely prudential grounds. His interpretation of the cases led him to conclude that "it is . . . clear that [plaintiffs in a public action] as such are not constitutionally excluded from the federal courts." Ibid. (emphasis in original).
Is it not somewhat ironic that MR. JUSTICE POWELL, who now seeks to explain United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, supra, as a straightforward application of settled doctrine, post, at 416-417, expressed in his dissent in McDonald, 432 U. S., at 396, the view that the holding rested on a fundamental misconception about the mootness of an uncertified class action after settlement of the named plaintiffs' claims? He stated:
"Pervading the Court's opinion is the assumption that the class action somehow continued after the District Court denied class status. But that assumption is supported neither by the text nor by the history of Rule 23. To the contrary, . . . the denial of class status converts the litigation to an ordinary nonclass action." Id., at 399.
The dissent went on to say:
"[Petitioner] argues with great force that, as a result of the settlement of their individual claims, the named plaintiffs `could no longer appeal the denial of class' status that had occurred years earlier. . . . Although this question has not been decided by this Court, the answer on principle is clear. The settlement of an individual claim typically moots any issues associated with it. . . . This case is sharply distinguishable from cases such as Sosna v. Iowa . . . and Franks v. Bowman Transp. Co. . . . where we allowed named plaintiffs whose individual claims were moot to continue to represent their classes. In those cases, the District Courts previously had certified the classes, thus giving them `a legal status separate from the interest[s] asserted by [the named plaintiffs]' Sosna v. Iowa, supra, at 399. This case presents precisely the opposite situation: The prior denial of class status had extinguished any representative capacity." Id., at 400 (footnote omitted).
Thus, the assumption thought to be "[p]ervading the Court's opinion" in McDonald, and so vigorously attacked by the dissent there, is now relegated to "gratuitous" "dictum," post, at 416. MR. JUSTICE POWELL, who finds the situation presented in the case at hand "fundamentally different" from that in Sosna and Franks, post, at 413, also found the facts of McDonald "sharply distinguishable" from those previous cases. 432 U. S., at 400.
We do not recite these cases for the purpose of showing that our result is mandated by the precedents. We concede that the prior cases may be said to be somewhat confusing, and that some, perhaps, are irreconcilable with others. Our point is that the strict, formalistic view of Art. III jurisprudence, while perhaps the starting point of all inquiry, is riddled with exceptions. And, in creating each exception, the Court has looked to practicalities and prudential considerations. The resulting doctrine can be characterized, aptly, as "flexible"; it has been developed, not irresponsibly, but "with some care," post, at 410, including the present case.
The dissent is correct that once exceptions are made to the formalistic interpretation of Art. III, principled distinctions and bright lines become more difficult to draw. We do not attempt to predict how far down the road the Court eventually will go toward premising jurisdiction "upon the bare existence of a sharply presented issue in a concrete and vigorously argued case," post, at 421. Each case must be decided on its own facts. We hasten to note, however, that this case does not even approach the extreme feared by the dissent. This respondent suffered actual, concrete injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct, and this injury would satisfy the formalistic personal-stake requirement if damages were sought. See, e. g., Powell v. McCormack, 395 U. S., at 495-500. His injury continued up to and beyond the time the District Court denied class certification. We merely hold that when a District Court erroneously denies a procedural motion, which, if correctly decided, would have prevented the action from becoming moot, an appeal lies from the denial and the corrected ruling "relates back" to the date of the original denial.
The judicial process will not become a vehicle for "concerned bystanders," post, at 413, even if one in respondent's position can conceivably be characterized as a bystander, because the issue on the merits will not be addressed until a class with an interest in the outcome has been certified. The "relation back" principle, a traditional equitable doctrine applied to class certification claims in Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975), serves logically to distinguish this case from the one brought a day after the prisoner is released. See post, at 420-421, n. 15. If the named plaintiff has no personal stake in the outcome at the time class certification is denied, relation back of appellate reversal of that denial still would not prevent mootness of the action.
Several prisoners now in federal custody have filed a motion to intervene as parties respondent in this Court. Although the Court does not rule on that motion, I note that the motion was received well over a year after respondent was released from prison. In the interim, respondent obtained a ruling from the Court of Appeals and filed his petition for certiorari in this Court. Such untimely intervention comes too late to save the action under United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385 (1977).
"This respondent suffered actual, concrete injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct, and this injury would satisfy the formalistic personal-stake requirement if damages were sought. See, e. g., Powell v. McCormack, 395 U. S., at 495-500."
This appears to be a categorical claim of the actual, concrete injury our cases have required. Yet, again, the Court fails to identify the injury. The reference to damages is irrelevant here, as respondent sought no damages—only injunctive and declaratory relief. Moreover, counsel for respondent frankly conceded that his client "can obtain absolutely no additional personal relief" in this case. Tr. of Oral Arg. 25. If the Court seriously is claiming concrete injury "at all stages of review," see supra, at 411, it would be helpful for it to identify specifically this injury that was not apparent to respondent's counsel. Absent such identification, the claim of injury is indeed an empty one.
Even on prudential grounds, there is little difference between this action and one filed promptly after the named plaintiff's release from prison. In the present case, this Court has ruled on neither the merits nor the propriety of the class action. At the same time, it has vacated a judgment by the Court of Appeals that in turn reversed the judgment of the District Court. No determination on any issue is left standing. For every practical purpose, the action must begin anew—this time without a plaintiff. The prudential considerations in favor of a finding of mootness could scarcely be more compelling.