United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
CORTERIOUS Q. BROWN PLAINTIFF
CODY FERGERSON, Detective Prescott Police Department; and ALEX GAMBLE, Officer Prescott Police Department DEFENDANTS
O. Hickey United States District Judge.
a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and
in forma pauperis. The case is before the Court for
preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the Court has the obligation to
screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental
filed his original Complaint on November 20, 2017, in the
Eastern District of Arkansas. (ECF No. 1). The following day
the case was transferred to the Western District, Texarkana
Division. (ECF No. 3). In response to the Court's order,
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on December 15,
2017. (ECF No. 7). At the time Plaintiff filed
his Amended Complaint, he was incarcerated in the Nevada
County Detention Center.
to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, “Det. Cody
Fergerson, [a detective with the Prescott Police Department,
] told me that he knew I did not have anything to do with the
crime and I have proof to prove my innocents.” ECF No.
7, p. 4. Plaintiff further states that Detective Fergerson is
forcing him to take a lie detector test and that the suspect
has confessed that Plaintiff had nothing to do with the
crime. ECF No. 7, p. 4. Plaintiff alleges that Alex Gamble, a
Prescott police officer, has stated that Plaintiff has
nothing to do with the crime. ECF No. 7, p. 5. Plaintiff
complains that despite his innocence and Defendants'
knowledge of his innocence, he is still being detained. ECF
NO. 7, p. 4. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Fergerson and
Gamble are violating his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff is suing Defendants in
their individual and official capacities. He is seeking
compensatory and punitive damages.
the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to
service of process being issued. The Court must dismiss a
complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that:
(1) are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted; or, (2) seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in
law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted if it does not allege “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro
se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a
claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded . . . to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Jackson
v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)).
However, a pro se plaintiff must allege specific
facts sufficient to support a claim. Martin v.
Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8 Cir. 1985).
asserts a claim of false arrest against Defendants. This
claim, which challenges the validity of the pending state
criminal proceedings against Plaintiff, is barred under the
abstention doctrine articulated in Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 59 (1971).
Younger doctrine “directs federal courts to
abstain from accepting jurisdiction in cases where granting
[equitable relief] would interfere with pending state
proceedings” involving important state interests.
Night Clubs, Inc. v. City of Fort Smith, Ark., 163
F.3d 475, 477 n.1 (8th Cir. 1998). In federal cases like this
one where only damages are sought, “traditional
abstention principles generally require a stay as the
appropriate mode of abstention.” Night Clubs,
Inc., 163 F.3d at 481 (citing Quackenbush v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 730 (1996)). This is
true “[a]s long as there may be issues which will need
to be determined in federal court.” Yamaha Motor
Corp., U.S.A. v. Stroud, 179 F.3d 598, 604 (8th Cir.
1999). However, a limited exception applies to allow
dismissal under Younger where an award of damages
would require the federal court to first declare a state
statute unconstitutional or to overturn a state court
judgment on a matter of state policy. Night Clubs,
Inc., 163 F.3d at 482. The Younger abstention
doctrine is a reflection of the public policy that disfavors
federal court interference with state judicial proceedings
and is based on the principles of comity and federalism.
See Ronwin v. Dunham, 818 F.2d 675, 677 (8th Cir.
factors must be determined affirmatively to result in
abstention under Younger: (1) there must be an
ongoing state judicial proceeding which (2) implicates
important state interests, and (3) that proceeding must
afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal questions
presented. Fuller v. Ulland, 76 F.3d 957, 959 (8th
Cir. 1996). If all three factors are met, the federal court
must abstain unless it detects “bad faith, harassment,
or some extraordinary circumstance that would make abstention
inappropriate.” Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v.
Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 435 (1982).
This bad faith exception “must be construed narrowly
and only invoked in extraordinary circumstances.”
Aaron v. Target Corp., 357 F.3d 768, 778-79 (8th
Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Court finds that the Younger abstention doctrine
applies to this case because Plaintiff's claim involves
an ongoing state judicial criminal proceeding against
Plaintiff, the state clearly has an important interest in
enforcing its criminal laws, and Plaintiff has given no
indication that he cannot raise his constitutional claims
during the state criminal proceedings. Conley v.
Hiland, No. 4:15-cv-0359-SWW, 2015 WL 4096152, at *1
(E.D. Ark. July 7, 2015). There is also no indication of bad
faith or any other extraordinary circumstance that would make
abstention inappropriate. Because Plaintiff seeks only
monetary damages, traditional abstention practices generally
favor a stay of this case rather than outright dismissal, and
no exceptions apply requiring dismissal. See Night Clubs,
Inc., 163 F.3d at 481. Thus, the Court will stay and
administratively terminate this federal case until the
pending state criminal charges are resolved. See Yamaha
Motor Corp., U.S.A., 179 F.3d at 603-04;
Conley, 2015 WL 4096152, at *1; Dunkin v.
Morales, No. 1:11-cv-0010-JMM, 2011 WL 719016, at *2
(E.D. Ark. Feb. 22, 2011).