United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
O. Hickey Chief United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant City of Hot Springs, Arkansas's
Motion to Stay Proceedings. (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff Franklin
Sears has not responded and his time to do so has passed.
See Local Rule 7.2(b). The Court finds the matter
ripe for consideration.
29, 2019, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, alleging
disability discrimination under the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and
age discrimination under the Age Discrimination and
Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 623(A), 631(A).
Plaintiff alleges that, on December 12, 2017, Defendant
terminated his employment as a Hot Springs police officer
after he failed to complete a physical fitness test.
Plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully terminated because
of his age and temporary disability.
appealed his termination to the Hot Springs Civil Service
Commission, which upheld the decision to terminate him on
January 17, 2018. (ECF No. 9-1). On February 15, 2018,
Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court of Pulaski County,
Arkansas, petitioning for review of the Hot Springs Civil
Service Commission's order. (ECF No. 9-2). The Pulaski
County Circuit Court subsequently transferred the case to the
Circuit Court of Garland County, Arkansas. On January 11,
2019, the Garland County Circuit Court affirmed the Hot
Springs Civil Service Commission's decision to uphold
Plaintiff's termination. (ECF No. 9-3).
February 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal with
the Arkansas Court of Appeals. (ECF No. 4). As of the date of
this order, the appeal remains pending.On October 10,
2019, Defendant filed the instant motion, stating that
Plaintiff's state appeal concerns the events giving rise
to the allegations in this case. Thus, Defendant argues that
the Court should stay and administratively terminate this
case pursuant to the Younger abstention doctrine,
pending the resolution of Plaintiff's state court
proceedings. Plaintiff has not responded to, or otherwise
opposed, the instant motion.
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).
so-called 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). The Younger
doctrine was originally designed to prevent federal courts
from enjoining pending state criminal proceedings.
Id. at 479. The doctrine “has since been
expanded to prohibit federal courts from interfering in
certain pending state civil cases . . . as well as pending
state administrative proceedings which are judicial (as
opposed to legislative) in nature.” Id.
(internal citation omitted). The Younger doctrine
reflects the public policy that disfavors federal court
interference with state judicial proceedings. See Ronwin
v. Dunham, 818 F.2d 675, 677 (8th Cir. 1987).
factors must be determined affirmatively to result in
abstention under Younger: (1) there must be an
ongoing state judicial proceeding, (2) the state proceeding
must implicate important state interests, and (3) the state
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 should 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
argues that Plaintiff's state court proceedings challenge
his termination and that he has raised his federal claims in
that proceeding. Defendant further argues that
Plaintiff's state proceedings implicate an important
state interest, as the state of Arkansas has a strong
interest in the conduct of civil servants and in reviewing
disciplinary actions taken against them.
absence of any opposition from Plaintiff, the Court agrees
that the three factors are met in this case. There is clearly
an ongoing state proceeding. The Court agrees that the state
proceeding implicates important state interests, namely, that
the state of Arkansas has an interest in providing a
mechanism for judicial review of disciplinary actions taken
against civil servants. There is no indication that the state
proceeding will not give Plaintiff an adequate opportunity to
raise the federal questions asserted in this
case. The Court finds no bad faith, harassment,
or other extraordinary circumstance that would make
Younger abstention otherwise inappropriate.
Consequently, the Court will apply the Younger
doctrine in this case.
question now becomes whether this case should be dismissed or
stayed. When a plaintiff solely seeks injunctive or
declaratory relief, 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). However, in cases like this one where 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
asks for this case to be stayed and administratively
terminated pending the resolution of the state proceeding.
The Court agrees with this proposed course of action.
Plaintiff seeks both monetary damages and equitable relief in
the form of reinstatement, so a stay of this case is
appropriate. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Stroud,
179 F.3d 598, 603-04 (8th Cir. 1999). Thus, the Court will
stay and administratively terminate this case until the