Nominal damages; constitutional claims; mootness; judicial economy


This Note examines whether nominal damages should sustain an otherwise moot constitutional claim. A majority of circuit courts have held that a lone claim for nominal damages is sufficient. A minority of circuit courts have determined that nominal damages are insufficient because there is no practical effect in determining such a case. The courts in the minority analogize nominal damages to declaratory judgments and justify their rulings on the basis of judicial economy. This Note proposes that the minority rule is impermissible under current precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court. However, this Note also proposes that the majority rule be adjusted slightly to address the concerns and criticisms of the minority rule. This Note argues that courts should scrutinize the lone claim for nominal damages and require that plaintiffs allege a specific incident of constitutional deprivation to ensure that there is an ongoing case and controversy. Finally, this Note suggests that the Supreme Court provide more guidance to federal courts on the doctrine of mootness.