United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
JORDAN LEDBETTER and AARON SMITH, JR. PLAINTIFFS
OFFICER DANIEL “FROG” OLLER of the HOPE POLICE DEPARTMENT in his Individual and Official Capacities, and THE CITY OF HOPE, ARKANSAS DEFENDANTS
O. HICKEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Stay Proceedings
Pending Criminal Disposition. (ECF No. 9). Plaintiffs have
filed a response. (ECF No. 11). The Court finds this matter
ripe for consideration.
brought this action on June 25, 2019, seeking to enjoin
Defendants-a police officer and the municipal entity
employing him-from arresting them and seizing their property.
(ECF No. 1, p. 3). Plaintiffs allege that on June 14, 2019,
Defendants conducted an illegal search and seizure when the
Hope Police Department, including Defendant Oller, raided
Plaintiffs' home. Id. at 2. During the raid, the
police found marijuana and several firearms. (ECF No. 10).
Plaintiffs claim that they were not arrested during the raid
and that the officers told them they could avoid being
arrested if they would buy at least a pound of marijuana
while wearing a camera and microphone. (ECF No. 1, p. 3).
Plaintiffs allege that the police told them they had two
weeks to make the buy or they would be arrested for the guns
and drugs seized during the raid. Id.
28, 2019, Plaintiffs were arrested on charges stemming from
the June 14, 2019, raid.(ECF No. 9-1). Plaintiffs are charged
with: (1) simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms; and
(2) possession of a schedule VI-controlled substance with the
purpose to deliver. Id. These charges are currently
being prosecuted by the State of Arkansas and have not yet
been adjudicated. (ECF No. 10, p. 1). Plaintiffs' next
scheduled court appearance is August 12, 2019, at 9:00 a.m.
17, 2019, Defendants filed the instant motion, arguing that
the Court should stay this action pending the disposition of
Plaintiffs' state criminal proceedings. (ECF No. 9).
Specifically, Defendants argue that the Court should abstain
from exercising jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to the
Younger doctrine. Id. On July 30, 2019,
Plaintiffs filed their response in opposition to
Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 11). Plaintiffs argue that
the Court should retain jurisdiction over this matter because
Defendants' conduct amounts to harassment. (ECF No. 12,
p. 2). Plaintiffs also argue that they will not able to
challenge the illegal search and seizure in state court.
federal courts have a “virtually unflagging
obligation” to exercise their jurisdiction in proper
cases. Colo. River Water Conservation Dist. v. United
States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976). “This exercise
of jurisdiction is constrained, however, by traditional
principles of equity, comity, and federalism.”
Alleghany Corp. v. McCartney, 896 F.2d 1138 (8th
Cir. 1990). The United States Supreme Court has established
several limited abstention doctrines to preserve such
principles. Beavers v. Ark. State Bd. of Dental
Exam'rs, 151 F.3d 838, 840-41 (8th Cir. 1998). One
such abstention doctrine is set forth in Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (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
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.
Younger doctrine provides that federal courts must
abstain from entertaining constitutional claims when: (1)
there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding; (2) the state
proceeding implicates important state interests; and (3)
there is an adequate opportunity in the state proceedings to
raise the constitutional challenges. 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 should
only be invoked in “extraordinary circumstances.”
Aaron v. Target Corp., 357 F.3d 768, 778-79 (8th
general, the Younger abstention doctrine
“directs federal courts to abstain from granting
injunctive or declaratory relief that would
interfere with pending judicial proceedings.” Night
Clubs, Inc., 163 F.3d at 481 (emphasis in original). In
such cases, Younger “contemplates the outright
dismissal of the federal suit, and the presentation of all
claims, both state and federal, to the state courts.”
Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S. 564, 577 (1973). In
cases where damages are sought in the federal suit,
“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)).
consideration, the Court finds that the Younger
abstention doctrine applies to this case. Plaintiffs'
claim involves an ongoing state judicial criminal proceeding
against Plaintiffs, the state clearly has an important
interest in enforcing its criminal laws, and Plaintiff have
given no indication, other than conclusory statements, as to
why they cannot raise their constitutional claims during the
state criminal proceedings. See 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. Plaintiffs argue that being arrested two weeks
after the raid and spending a weekend in jail constitutes
harassment sufficient to warrant retaining jurisdiction over
this matter. However, the Court finds that these facts do not
amount to the extraordinary circumstances that provide an
exception to the Younger doctrine. See Lewellen
v. Raff, 843 F.2d 1103, 1112 n.10 (8th Cir. 1988)
(stating serious prosecutorial misconduct such as bringing
charges with no reasonable expectation of valid conviction or
attempting to chill first amendment expression is necessary
to trigger bad-faith exception to Younger).
Moreover, because Plaintiffs ...