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Honeycutt v. Lowery

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 31, 2014

TODD M. HONEYCUTT, Plaintiff,
v.
TERESA LOWERY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This pro se prisoner civil rights action comes before the Court on a sua sponte inquiry as to whether abstention is required under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), as well as two pending motions (## 8 & 9) discussed further, infra. This order follows upon a prior show-cause order (#6) and plaintiff's response thereto, which he has presented as a motion (#11) to show cause.

Abstention

The procedural background is not disputed and is outlined in detail in the show-cause order. See #6, at 1-3.

The prior order further summarized the governing law as follows:

Under the abstention doctrine in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), absent extraordinary circumstances, a federal court may not enjoin or otherwise interfere with a pending state criminal proceeding through a grant of injunctive relief. Where Younger abstention is required, any claims for injunctive relief must be dismissed. Moreover, the action must be stayed as to any damage th claims. See, e.g., Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 981 (9th Cir. 2004)( en banc ); see also Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 393-94 (2007)(if plaintiff files a damage action that would impugn a possible future conviction, a stay may be appropriate until the criminal proceedings are concluded); Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 n.8 (1994)(similar). Younger abstention may be raised by the federal court sua sponte. See, e.g., San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, 145 F.3d 1095, 1103 n.5 (9th Cir. 1998).

#6, at 3.

The order directed plaintiff "to show cause why the claims for injunctive relief should not be dismissed without prejudice and his monetary damage claims stayed." #6, at 4.

Plaintiff contends that abstention is not required because the State allegedly is prosecuting him in bad faith by using manufactured evidence to obtain an invalid conviction. This sort of in actuality garden variety allegation - a state criminal defendant alleging that he is being prosecuted on falsified evidence - does not present extraordinary circumstances in the sense contemplated by the Younger abstention doctrine. The place for a state criminal defendant to challenge the evidence brought against him in an ongoing prosecution is in the prosecution itself and in any following direct and collateral review, not in a federal civil rights action.

Nor does the fact that the State has continued to litigate issues in the federal habeas action after the Ninth Circuit's partial remand lead to a different result. As the Court noted in the federal habeas action, the issue being pursued on the second appeal "is a debatable one" and the respondents "undeniably have the right to seek further review." No. 2:06-cv-00634-RLH-GWF, #83, at 3.[1] Additional proceedings lie ahead if the State elects to retry plaintiff, as the Ninth Circuit's Massiah holding in all events constitutes only a basis for a retrial, if elected, not an unconditional writ grant in that event. In this civil rights action, the Court understands plaintiff's concern about the running of the limitations period on a civil rights claim. However, the stay of the damage claims eliminates such a concern.

Plaintiff further contends that the claim for injunctive relief also should be stayed rather than dismissed. He focuses on the language in the show-cause order indicating that a federal court may not interfere with a pending state criminal proceeding "through a grant of injunctive relief." (Emphasis added.) Under plaintiff's strained reading of the language used, a federal court could entertain a pending claim seeking to enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding up to a "grant" of an injunction, so long as it did not then do so. The law, cited in the order, instead is well-established that a claim seeking to enjoin a pending state criminal prosecution must be dismissed. It is the interference posed by the pendency of the request to enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding that requires abstention in the first instance.[2] The dismissal is without prejudice and has no adverse limitations period or other collateral consequences in this context, particularly with the damage claims being stayed.[3]

The Court accordingly will abstain under Younger, dismissing the claim for injunctive relief and staying the claims for damages.

Pending Motions

Plaintiff's motion (#8) for appointment of counsel ...


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