United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER (1) GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND (2) DENYING
MOTION TO AMEND [ECF NOS. 11, 23]
P. GORDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Todd Phillips (Todd) is litigating divorce and child custody
issues against his wife Amber Phillips (Amber) in Nevada
state court. After the state court issued a temporary
protective order and other orders, Todd filed this lawsuit
against Amber and against state court Judge Linda Marquis and
state court Hearing Masters Jennifer Henry and Timothy
Andrews (collectively the “state defendants”). He
contends his “right to parent” is being violated
in the state court proceedings. ECF No. 1 at 6. He seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
state defendants move to dismiss the claims against them
because the Younger abstention doctrine precludes
federal courts from interfering with on-going state court
proceedings. This is especially true when, as here, the
plaintiff's federal claims arise from domestic relations
proceedings, which are traditionally left to the state
courts. I agree, so I will grant the motion to dismiss this
Under Younger abstention, federal courts may not
grant declaratory or injunctive relief that would interfere
with state criminal or civil proceedings . . . . Absent
extraordinary circumstances, Younger abstention is
required if the state proceedings are (1) ongoing, (2)
implicate important state interests, and (3) provide the
plaintiff an adequate opportunity to litigate federal claims.
San Remo Hotel v. City & Cty. of San Francisco,
145 F.3d 1095, 1103 (9th Cir. 1998). Family law
matters-especially where interlocutory orders exist-are
“precisely the type of case suited to Younger
abstention.” H.C. ex rel. Gordon v. Koppel,
203 F.3d 610, 613-14 (9th Cir. 2000). Dismissal is required
when Younger abstention applies. San Remo,
145 F.3d at 1103.
actively litigating his divorce and custody issues in state
court. Nevada has a strong interest in how domestic relations
issues are resolved. See H.C. ex rel. Gordon, 203
F.3d at 613 (“This is a particularly appropriate
admonition in the field of domestic relations, over which
federal courts have no general jurisdiction, . . . and in
which the state courts have a special expertise and
experience.”) (internal citations
omitted). Nothing precludes Todd from litigating his
federal claims in the state court action. Therefore, I will
dismiss the claims under Younger without reaching
the other grounds for dismissal raised by the state
dismiss Todd's claim against Amber because it, too,
arises from the divorce case and thus is barred by
Younger. See ECF No. 1 at 7
(“Legal Issue Presented: Where family law
courts find domestic violence, may courts thereupon revoke
the perpetrator's parental rights- and award sole custody
to the victim? (No.)”). In addition, Todd has not filed
proof that he served Amber with the summons and complaint for
this case. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) allows
dismissal of a lawsuit against a defendant who has not been
served within 90 days after the complaint is filed. I do not
dismiss the claim against Amber based on that service defect,
however, as Younger abstention renders moot any
proof of service.
filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint to add two
causes of action and a new defendant. ECF No. 23. But his
proposed amended complaint is likewise barred by
Younger because the proposed claims are inextricably
intertwined with the divorce and custody issues being
litigated in state court. Thus, amendment would be futile and
the Younger abstention doctrine mandates that I
dismiss the lawsuit. Therefore, I deny Todd's motion to
the defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No.
11). The complaint is dismissed in its entirety.
the plaintiffs motion for leave to file an amended complaint
(ECF No. 23).
the clerk of the court to enter judgment accordingly and
close this case.
See also Peterson v. Babbitt,
708 F.2d 465, 466 (9th Cir. 1983) (“[F]ederal courts
have uniformly held that they should not adjudicate cases
involving domestic relations, including the custody of minors
and a fortiori, the rights of ...