416 U.S. 802 (1974), 72-1125, Allee v. Medrano

Docket Nº:No. 72-1125
Citation:416 U.S. 802, 94 S.Ct. 2191, 40 L.Ed.2d 566
Party Name:Allee v. Medrano
Case Date:May 20, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 802

416 U.S. 802 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 2191, 40 L.Ed.2d 566




No. 72-1125

United States Supreme Court

May 20, 1974

Argued November 13, 1973




Appellee union and the individual appellees, who attempted from June, 1966, to June, 1967, to unionize farmworkers and persuade them to support or join a strike, were subjected to persistent harassment and violence by appellants and other law enforcement officers. In July, 1967, a state court issued a temporary injunction against appellees proscribing picketing on or near property of one of the major employers in the area. Appellees brought this federal civil rights action, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, attacking the constitutionality of certain Texas statutes and alleging that appellants and the other officers conspired to deprive appellees of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. A three-judge District Court declared five of the statutes unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement, [94 S.Ct. 2194] and in addition permanently enjoined appellants and the other officers from intimidating appellees in their organizational efforts.


1. The state court injunction did not moot the controversy, since it was the appellants' and the other officers' conduct, not the injunction, that ended the strike. Nor has the case become moot because appellees abandoned their unionization efforts as a result of the harassment, for appellee union still is a live organization with a continuing goal of unionizing farmworkers. Pp. 809-811.

2. The portion of the District Court's decree enjoining police intimidation of the appellees was an appropriate exercise of the court's equitable powers. Pp. 811-816.

(a) The three-judge court could properly consider the question of police harassment under concededly constitutional statutes and grant relief in the exercise of jurisdiction ancillary to that conferred by the constitutional attack on the statutes that plainly required a three-judge court. Pp. 811-812.

(b) This portion of the decree did not interfere with pending state prosecutions, so that special considerations relevant to cases like Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, do not apply, nor was there any requirement that appellees first exhaust state remedies before bringing their federal suit. P. 814.

(c) Irreparable injury was shown as evidenced by the District Court's unchallenged findings of police intimidation, and no remedy at law would adequately protect appellees from such intimidation in their lawful effort to unionize the farmworkers. Pp. 814-815.

(d) Where there is a persistent pattern of police misconduct, as opposed to isolated incidents, injunctive relief is appropriate. Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496. Pp. 815-816.

3. The portion of the District Court's decree holding five of the state statutes unconstitutional with accompanying injunctive relief must be vacated. Pp. 816-820.

(a) Where three of the statutes have been repealed and replaced by more narrowly drawn provisions since the District Court's decision, and there are no pending prosecutions under them, the judgment relating to these statutes will have become moot. Since it cannot be definitely determined from the District Court's opinion or the record whether there are pending prosecutions, or even whether the District Court intended to enjoin them if there were, the case is remanded for further findings. If there are no pending prosecutions, the court should vacate the judgment as to the superseded statutes. If some are pending, the court should make findings as to whether they were brought in bad faith, and, if so, enter an appropriate decree subject to review both as to the propriety of federal court intervention and as to the merits of any holding striking down the statutes. Pp. 818-820.

(b) The case is remanded for a determination as to whether there are pending prosecutions under the two remaining statutes, and for further findings and reconsideration in light of Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452. If there are pending prosecutions, the court should determine whether they were brought in bad faith. If there are only threatened prosecutions and only declaratory relief is sought, then Steffel controls and no Younger showing need be made. P. 820.

347 F.Supp. 605, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

DOUGLAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the result in part and dissenting in part, in which WHITE and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 821. POWELL, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[94 S.Ct. 2195] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a civil rights action,1 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, attacking the constitutionality of certain Texas statutes, brought by appellees. It alleges that the defendants, members of the Texas Rangers and the Starr County, Texas, Sheriff's Department, and a Justice of the Peace in Starr County, conspired to deprive appellees of their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, by unlawfully arresting, detaining, and confining them without due process and without legal justification, and by unlawfully threatening, harassing, coercing, and physically assaulting them to prevent their exercise of the rights of free speech and assembly. A three-judge court was convened which declared five Texas statutes unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement. 347 F.Supp. 605, 634. In addition, the court permanently enjoined the defendants from a variety of unlawful practices which formed the core of the alleged conspiracy. Five defendants, all members of the Texas Rangers, have perfected this appeal. 28 U.S.C. § 1253. The appellees

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consist of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, certain named plaintiffs,2 and the class they represented in the District Court, on whose behalf the judgment was also rendered.3

From June, 1966, until June, 1967, the appellees were engaged in an effort to organize into the union the predominantly Mexican-American farmworkers of the lower Rio Grande Valley. This effort led to considerable local controversy, which brought appellees into conflict with the state and local authorities, and the District Court found that, as a result of the unlawful practices enjoined below, the organizing efforts were crushed. This lawsuit followed.

The factual findings of the District Court are not challenged here. In early June, 1966, at the beginning of the organizing effort, Eugene Nelson, one of the strikers' principal leaders, stationed himself at the International Bridge in Roma, Texas, attempting to persuade laborers from Mexico to support the strike. He was taken into custody by the Starr County Sheriff, detained for four hours, questioned about the strike, and was told he was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of

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Investigation. No charges were ever filed against him. 347 F.Supp. at 612.

In October, 1966, about 25 union members and sympathizers picketed alongside the Rancho Grande Farms exhorting the laborers to join the strike; they were ordered to disperse by the sheriffs, although their picketing was peaceful. When Raymond Chandler, one of the union leaders, engaged an officer in conversation contesting the validity of the order, he was arrested under Art. 474 of the Texas Penal Code for breach of the peace. Although the maximum punishment for this offense is a $200 fine, bond was set for Chandler at $500. When two of Chandler's friends came to the courthouse to make bond, they were verbally abused, told they had no business there, and that, if they did not leave, they would be [94 S.Ct. 2196] placed in Jail themselves. 347 F.Supp. at 612-613. They left.4

Later that month, when the president of the local union and others were in the courthouse under arrest, they shouted "viva la huelga" in support of the strike. A deputy sheriff struck the union official and held a gun at his forehead, ordering him not to repeat those words in the courthouse because it was a "respectful place." Id. at 613. As the strike continued through the year and the Texas Rangers were called into the local area, there were more serious incidents of violence. In May, 1967, some union pickets gathered in Mission, Texas, to protest the carrying of produce from the valley on the Missouri-Pacific Railroad. They were initially charged with trespass on private property; this was changed to unlawful assembly, and finally was superseded by complaints of secondary picketing. The Reverend Edgar

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Krueger and Magdaleno Dimas were taken into custody by the Rangers. As a train passed, the Rangers held these two prisoners' bodies so that their faces were only inches from the train. Id. at 615.

A few weeks later, the Rangers sought to arrest Dimas for allegedly brandishing a gun in a threatening manner, and found him by "tailing" Chandler and Moreno, also union members. Chandler was arrested with no explanation, as was Moreno, who was also assaulted by Captain Allee at the time. These two men were later charged with assisting Dimas to evade arrest, although, by Allee's own testimony, they were never told Dimas was sought by the Rangers. Indeed, because the officers had no arrest warrant or formal complaint against Dimas, they could not then arrest him, so they put in a call to a justice of the peace who arrived on the scene and filled out a warrant on forms he carried with him. The Rangers then broke into a house and arrested Dimas and Rodriguez, another union member, in a violent and brutal fashion. Dimas was hospitalized four days with a brain...

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