45 223 Hicks v. Miranda 8212 156

Citation422 U.S. 332,95 S.Ct. 2281
Decision Date24 June 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74,74
Parties. 45 L.Ed.2d 223 Cecil HICKS, District Attorney of the County of Orange, State of California, et al., Appellants, v. Vincent MIRANDA, dba Walnut Properties, et al. —156
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Syllabus

After the police, pursuant to four separate warrants, had seized four copies of an allegedly obscene film from appellees' theater, misdemeanor charges were filed in Municipal Court against two theater employees, and the California Superior Court ordered appellees to show cause why the film should not be declared obscene. Subsequently, the Superior Court declared the film obscene and ordered seized all copies that might be found at the theater. Rather than appealing from this order, appellees filed suit in Federal District Court against appellant police officers and prosecuting attorneys, seeking an injunction against enforcement of the California obscenity statute and for return of the seized copies of the film, and a judgment declaring the statute unconstitutional. A three-judge court was then convened to consider the constitutionality of the statute. Meanwhile, appellees were added as parties defendant in the Municipal Court criminal proceeding. Thereafter, the three-judge court declared the obscenity statute unconstitutional, ordered return to appellees of all seized copies of the film, and rejected appellants' claim that Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669, and Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L.Ed.2d 688, required dismissal of the case, holding that no criminal charges were pending against appellees in state court and that in any event the pattern of search warrants and seizures of the film showed bad faith and harassment on the authorities' part. The court then denied appellants' motions for rehearing and relief from the judgment, based, inter alia, on this Court's intervening dismissal 'for want of a substantial federal question' of the appeal in Miller v. California, 418 U.S. 915, 94 S.Ct. 3206, 41 L.Ed.2d 1158 (Miller II), from the California Superior Court's judgment sustaining the constitutionality of the California obscenity statute; reaffirmed its Younger v. Harris ruling; and, after concluding that it was not bound by the dismissal of Miller II, supra, adhered to its judgment that the obscenity statute was unconstitutional, although it amended its injunction so as to require appellants to seek return of three of the four copies of the film in the Municipal Court's possession. Held:

1. This Court has jurisdiction over the appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1253, and the injunction, as well as the declaratory judgment, are properly before the Court. Pp. 342-348.

(a) Although the constitutional issues presented in Miller II and declared insubstantial by this Court, could not be considered substantial and decided otherwise by the District Court, Miller II did not require that the three-judge court be dissolved in the circumstances. Since appellees not only challenged the enforcement of the obscenity statute but also sought to enjoin enforcement of the search warrant statutes (necessarily on constitutional grounds) insofar as they might be applied to permit the multiple seizures of the film, and since Miller II had nothing to do with the issue of the validity of the multiple seizures, that issue remained in the case and the three-judge court should have remained in session to consider it. Pp. 343-346.

(b) The District Court's injunction, requiring appellants to seek return of three copies of the film in the Municipal Court's possession, plainly interfered with the pending criminal prosecution and with enforcement of the obscenity statute, and hence was an injunction reserved to a three-judge court under 28 U.S.C. § 2281. Pp. 347-348.

2. The District Court erred in reaching the merits of the case despite appellants' insistence that it be dismissed under Younger v. Harris and Samuels v. Mackell. Pp. 348-352.

(a) Where state criminal proceedings are begun against the federal plaintiffs after the federal complaint is filed but before any proceedings of substance on the merits have taken place in the federal court, the principles of Younger v. Harris should apply in full force. Here, appellees were charged in the state criminal proceedings prior to appellants' answering the federal case and prior to any proceedings before the three-judge court, and hence the federal complaint should have been dismissed on appellants' motion absent satisfactory proof of those extraordinary circumstances warranting one of the exceptions to the rule of Younger v. Harris and related cases. Pp. 348-350.

(b) Absent at least some effort by the District Court to impeach the prosecuting officials' entitlement to rely on repeated judicial authorization for seizures of the film, official bad faith and harassment were not made out, and the District Court erred in holding otherwise. Pp. 350-352.

D.C., 388 F.Supp. 350, reversed.

Oretta D. Sears, Fullerton, Cal., and Arlo E. Smith, San Francisco, Cal., for appellants.

Stanley Fleishman, Hollywood, Cal., and Sam Rosenwein, Studio City, Cal., for appellees.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case poses issues under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971); Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L.Ed.2d 688 (1971), and related cases, as well as the preliminary question as to our jurisdiction of this direct appeal from a judgment of a three-judge District Court.

I

On November 23 and 24, 1973, pursuant to four separate warrants issued seriatim, the police seized four copies of the film 'Deep Throat,' each of which had been shown at the Pussycat Theatre in Buena Park, Orange County, Cal. 1 On November 26 an eight-count criminal misdemeanor charge was filed in the Orange County Municipal Court against two employees of the theater, each film seized being the subject matter of two counts in the complaint. Also on November 26, the Superior Court of Orange County ordered appellees2 to show cause why 'Deep Throat' should not be declared obscene, an immediate hearing being available to appellees, who appeared that day, objected on state-law grounds to the court's jurisdiction to conduct such a proceeding, purported to 'reserve' all federal questions, and refused further to participate. Thereupon, on November 27 the Superior Court held a hearing, viewed the film, took evidence, and then declared the movie to be obscene and ordered seized all copies of it that might be found at the theater. This judgment and order were not appealed by appellees.3

Instead, on November 29, they filed this suit in the District Court against appellants—four police officers of Buena Park and the District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney of Orange County. The complaint recited the seizures and the proceedings in the Superior Court, stated that the action was for an injunction against the enforcement of the California obscenity stat- ute, and prayed for judgment declaring the obscenity statute unconstitutional, and for an injunction ordering the return of all copies of the film, but permitting one of the films to be duplicated before its return.

A temporary restraining order was requested and denied, the District Judge finding the proof of irreparable injury to be lacking and an insufficient likelihood of prevailing on the merits to warrant an injunction.4 He requested the convening of a three-judge court, however, to consider the constitutionality of the statute. Such a court was then designated on January 8, 1974.5

Service of the complaint was completed on January 14, 1974, and answers and motions to dismiss, as well as a motion for summary judgment, were filed by appellants. Appellees moved for a preliminary injunction.6 None of the motions was granted and no hearings held, all of the issues being ordered submitted on briefs and affidavits. The Attorney General of California also appeared and urged the District Court to follow People v. Enskat, 33 Cal.App.3d 900, 109 Cal.Rptr. 433 (1973), hearing denied Oct. 24, 1973), which, after Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S.Ct. 2607, 37 L.Ed.2d 419 (1973) (Miller I), had upheld the California obscenity statute.

Meanwhile, on January 15, the criminal complaint pending in the Municipal Court had been amended by naming appellees7 as additional parties defendant and by adding four conspiracy counts, one relating to each of the seized films. Also, on motions of the defendants in that case, two of the films were ordered suppressed on the ground that the two search warrants for seizing 'Deep Throat' last issued, one on November 23 and the other on November 24, did not sufficiently allege that the films to be seized under those warrants differed from each other and from the films previously seized, the final two seizures being said to be invalid multiple seizures.8 Immediately after this order, which was later appealed and reversed, the defense and the prosecution stipulated that for purposes of the trial, which was expected to be forth- coming, the four prints of the film would be considered identical and only one copy would have to be proved at trial.9

On June 4, 1974, the three-judge court issued its judgment and opinion declaring the California obscenity statute to be unconstitutional for failure to satisfy the requirements of Miller I and ordering appellants to return to appellees all copies to 'Deep Throat' which had been seized as well as to refrain from making any additional seizures. Appellants' claim that Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L.Ed.2d 688 (1971), required dismissal of the case was rejected, the court holding that no criminal charges were pending in the state court against appellees and that in any event the pattern of search warrants and seizures demonstrated bad faith and harassment on the part...

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