HUNT, Presiding Justice.
The plaintiffs — registered voters and certain present and former members of the General Assembly — brought this action for injunctive, mandamus, and declaratory relief, challenging the authority of the Governor and Attorney General to enter into a proposed settlement of certain federal litigation concerning the Voting Rights Act, 42 USC § 1971 et seq.
The issue presented by the plaintiffs is whether the Governor and Attorney General have the authority to enter into the proposed settlement.
"The existence of an actual controversy is fundamental to a decision on the merits by this court." Bowers v. Bd. of Regents, 259 Ga. 221 (378 S.E.2d 460) (1989). A controversy is justiciable when it is definite and concrete, rather than being hypothetical, abstract, academic, or moot. Board of Trustees v. Kenworthy, 253 Ga. 554, 557 (322 S.E.2d 720) (1984). Similarly, federal courts employ the doctrine of "ripeness" under the Article III requirement of a "case or controversy." See Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure: Jurisdiction No. 2d, § 3532.
The proposed settlement consists of a three-page "settlement memorandum" jointly from the Attorney General and an attorney for the plaintiffs in the federal litigation, addressed not to the federal judge presiding over any of the federal cases, but to another federal judge, who is serving as a mediator between the parties. The memorandum consists of 16 paragraphs containing specific and aspirational terms concerning the settlement of the federal litigation.
The proposed settlement has been submitted to the federal district court and to the U. S. Department of Justice. However, there is no indication in the record before us that any of the provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (e),
In sum, the plaintiffs challenge a tentative agreement entered into in the federal litigation. In raising these questions, plaintiffs ask this court to do what it is not authorized to do: to render an advisory opinion on hypothetical and legal questions that have not arisen but which appellants fear may arise at a future date. Board of Commrs. of Walton County v. Dept. of Public Health, 229 Ga. 173 (2) (190 S.E.2d 39) (1972). For the foregoing reasons, we conclude this case is not ripe for judicial review, and the trial court erred by reaching the merits of the case. Accordingly, the trial court's order is vacated, and the appeal is remanded to the trial court for dismissal.
Judgment vacated and remanded. Clarke, C. J., Benham, Fletcher, Sears-Collins and Hunstein, JJ., concur.
Under Rule 23 (e), a class action cannot be compromised or dismissed without the district court's approval, and the federal district court cannot approve a dismissal or compromise until the class members have been given notice describing the settlement and outlining the options open to them as class members. The settlement proponents must persuade the federal district court that the settlement is "fair, adequate and reasonable." See Holmes v. Continental Can Co., 706 F.2d 1144 (11th Cir. 1983).
The district court must consider important factors such as: (1) the strength of the merits of the plaintiffs' case balanced against the amount offered in settlement; (2) the presence of collusion in reaching the settlement; (3) the reaction of class members to the settlement; (4) the opinion of competent counsel; and (5) the stage of the proceedings and the amount of discovery completed. 3B Moore's Federal Practice, Par. 23.80 .