United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
For Sharita Giles, Plaintiff: John M. Mooney, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF JOHN M. MOONEY, JR., PLLC, Madison, MS.
For Shaw School District, Evereth Stanton individually and in their official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaw School District, Georgia Ballard, individually and in their official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaw School District, Evelyn Henry, individually and in their official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaw School District, Cora Jackson, individually and in their official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaw School District, Esther Sharp, individually and in their official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaw School District, Leon McNeal, individually and in their official capacity as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Shaw School District, Defendants: Willie Griffin, LEAD ATTORNEY, BAILEY & GRIFFIN, Greenville, MS.
Sharion Aycock, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff Sharita Giles initiated this lawsuit against her former employer Shaw School District (" SSD" ) and members of its School Board, alleging gender discrimination, deprivations of substantive and procedural due process, and violations of the Equal Protection Clause. In a related and ongoing action in the Chancery Court
of Bolivar County, Mississippi, Giles has appealed SSD's decision not to renew her employment. In view of these parallel proceedings, SSD has filed a Motion to Abstain and to Stay . Upon consideration of the motion, responses, rules, and authorities, the Court finds as follows:
Facts and Procedural History
Giles began her employment as Principal of McEvans School in the Shaw County, Mississippi School District in 2008. Giles alleges that, in November 2012, the District Superintendent, Dr. Cederick Ellis, recommended to the School Board that all of the District's administrators receive pay raises for the upcoming year. According to Giles, the School Board approved a raise for a male principal within the District, but declined to authorize a raise for her. Based on this decision, Giles filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ), alleging sex-based discrimination. The following February, according to Giles, Ellis recommended that the Board renew Giles' employment as Principal of McEvans. However, the School Board again declined to adopt Ellis's recommendation and voted by a count of three to two not to renew Giles' employment. She then filed another charge with the EEOC, alleging that her non-renewal was effectuated in retaliation for her initial charge of sex discrimination.
Following the non-renewal, Giles requested and received a hearing before the School Board, pursuant to Mississippi's School Employment Procedures Law. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-9-111. The Board voted (again three to two) to uphold its original non-renewal decision, at which time Giles filed a third charge with the EEOC, reiterating allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation. Giles also timely appealed the Board's decision to the Bolivar County Chancery Court, which has jurisdiction pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 37-9-13 to determine whether the School Board's non-renewal should be overturned. Oral arguments were heard in the Chancery Court on March 21, 2014, and a resolution is pending.
After her appeal to the Chancery Court, Giles initiated this action against SSD and the Board Members involved in the decisions not to give her a raise and not to renew her employment. She seeks compensation and equitable relief from SSD under Title VII on the basis of sex discrimination and retaliation; declaratory relief and injunctive relief against the Board Members in their official capacities to remedy alleged violations of due process and equal protection; and damages from the Board Members in their individual capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. SSD has filed the pending motion, requesting the Court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over Giles' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and to stay Giles' claims for damages.
A federal court should abstain under Younger when " assumption of jurisdiction by a federal court would interfere with pending state proceedings . . . ."
La. Debating & Literary Ass'n v. City of New Orleans,42 F.3d 1483, 1489 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation and quotation omitted). Although the Younger doctrine originally only required courts to abstain from interfering with state criminal prosecutions, it now applies to civil proceedings as well " if the State's interests in the proceeding are so important that exercise of the federal judicial power would disregard the comity between the States and the National Government."
Health Net, Inc. v. Wooley,534 F.3d 487, 494 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting Pennzoil Co. ...