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Hughes v. City of Southaven

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

May 17, 2018

JESSICA HUGHES PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF SOUTHAVEN, et al., DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         The Court has before it a motion for dismiss [18] filed by Defendants DeSoto County, Mississippi and Sheriff Bill Rasco. Having considered the matter, the Court finds the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Plaintiff Jessica Hughes claims that on February 9th, 2018, Defendants arrested her in violation of her constitutional rights. According to the complaint, Hughes was seated in the passenger seat of her car, parked at a restaurant, while she waited on her husband inside. Am. Compl. [1] ¶¶ 12. Defendant Croy[1], a Southaven police officer, approached Hughes in the car and informed her that the car had been parked in a handicap space. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.

         Croy questioned Hughes, and according to Hughes, he became very hostile in his questioning. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Hughes called the 911 emergency line in order to reach Cray's supervisor, but the dispatcher hung up on her. She called back, and the dispatcher gave her a local number to contact. Id. ¶I8.

         Hughes dialed the local number three times, unable to reach anyone each time. As she made the third call, Croy arrested her for dialing the emergency line multiple times for a non- emergency. Id. ¶ 21. At this, time Hughes is currently facing pending criminal charges stemming from the arrest in the Southaven Municipal Court. Id. ¶ 26.

         Hughes filed the present suit alleging several § 1983 claims and seeking injunctive relief, prohibiting Defendants from "committing conduct of the like, kind, character, and nature as demonstrated and described in this complaint." Id. ¶ 28.

         Younger Abstention

         DeSoto County and Sheriff Rascoe argue that because Hughes still faces pending criminal charges arising out of this incident, the Younger doctrine requires this court to abstain from considering Hughes' claims and to dismiss them.

         The Younger doctrine requires federal courts to abstain from "hearing claims for injunctive and declaratory relief '[when] assumption of jurisdiction . . . would interfere with pending state proceedings, whether of a criminal, civil, or even administrative character."' Floyd v. Amite Cnty. Sch. Dist, 376 F.Supp.2d 693, 695 (quoting La. Debating and Literary Ass'n v. City of New Orleans, 42 F.3d 1483, 1489 (5th Cir. 1995)) (alteration in original). The doctrine is applied to claims of equitable relief when three conditions are met: "(1) the federal proceeding would interfere with an 'ongoing state judicial proceeding'; (2) the state has an important interest in regulating the subject matter of the claim; and (3) the plaintiff has 'an adequate opportunity in the state proceedings to raise constitutional challenges.'" Bice v. Louisiana Pub. Def. Bd, 677 F.3d 712, 716 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982)).

         1. Interference with a state judicial proceeding

         The parties agree that the pending charges in the Southaven Municipal Court are state judicial proceedings. However, that does not end the Court's inquiry into the first condition; it is still necessary to determine whether this proceeding will interfere with the state proceeding.

         Hughes argues it will not because she seeks to enjoin the Defendants here from committing the alleged constitutional violations they committed here in the future, rather than seeking to enjoin or enforce any conduct in her state case.

         Direct interference is not required to satisfy the first condition of the Younger doctrine, however. Rather, "[interference is established 'whenever the requested relief would interfere with the state court's ability to conduct proceedings, regardless of whether the relief targets the conduct of a proceeding directly.'" Bice, 677 F.3d at 717 (quoting Joseph A. ex rel Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1272 (10th Cir. 2002)).

         To grant Hughes injunctive relief, this Court would first have to determine whether the conduct of Defendants violated her constitutional rights. In doing so, the Court would have to determine whether Defendants arrested Hughes without probable cause to believe she committed a crime. And in doing that, this Court would make determinations that would affect the state court proceeding, such as whether the charges brought against ...


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