Becker v. Thompson, No. 71-1856.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtTUTTLE, GEWIN and DYER, Circuit
Citation459 F.2d 919
PartiesSandra Lee BECKER, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, Richard Guy Steffel, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. John R. THOMPSON, etc., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date20 July 1972
Docket NumberNo. 71-1856.

459 F.2d 919 (1972)

Sandra Lee BECKER, etc., et al., Plaintiffs,
Richard Guy Steffel, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
John R. THOMPSON, etc., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 71-1856.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

May 3, 1972.

Rehearing and Rehearing Denied July 20, 1972.


459 F.2d 920

Howard Moore, Jr., William H. Traylor, John R. Myer, Atlanta, Ga., for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert E. Mozley, George P. Dillard, Decatur, Ga., Dock H. Davis, Atlanta, Ga., for defendants-appellees.

Before TUTTLE, GEWIN and DYER, Circuit Judges.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied July 20, 1972.

DYER, Circuit Judge:

In this appeal we must meet the issue explicitly reserved in Samuels v. Mackell, 1971, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L. Ed.2d 688, that is, the propriety of granting declaratory relief when no state criminal proceeding is pending at the time the federal suit is begun. Finding no bad faith enforcement or harassment by the state, the district court denied declaratory relief and entered judgment in favor of the defendants, 334 F.Supp. 1386. We affirm.

The facts are undisputed. The action takes place at the North DeKalb Shopping Center. It is a large, modern, retail shopping area located in a partially residential, partially small business area of unincorporated North DeKalb County, Georgia. It contains a large parking lot and a totally covered air conditioned building complex housing more than sixty retail tenants surrounded by a wide exterior sidewalk.

Since its opening in 1965 the Center has enforced its regulations against handbilling because it desired to maintain an attractive place for its customers to shop without interference or irritation. The Boy Scouts and local garden clubs are permitted to use the booths inside the Mall for bake sales and to give information concerning their activities.

On October 8, 1970, plaintiffs Steffel, Becker and others stood on the exterior sidewalk of the Center and distributed hand bills informing passersby of a meeting protesting the war in Indo-China. The plaintiffs were soon instructed by a Center private security guard that they could not distribute the hand bills and were ordered to leave. When they refused the DeKalb County Police were called. When the police arrived plaintiffs were informed that, if they did not stop distribution of hand bills, they would be arrested. The plaintiffs left and no arrests were made.

On October 10, 1970, an attorney for the plaintiffs asked the manager of the Center to permit them to distribute anti-war handbills. Permission was refused. Nevertheless, Steffel and Becker returned to the Center and again, in an orderly fashion, distributed handbills from the exterior sidewalk while other members of the group made photographs. Steffel and Becker were again advised by the security guard and the Center's manager that they could not distribute the handbills and that, if they persisted in doing so, they would be arrested. Ultimately the DeKalb County police arrived and told Becker and Steffel to discontinue their activity or they would be arrested. Steffel left to avoid arrest. Becker continued to distribute the handbills and was arrested on a

459 F.2d 921
charge of criminal trespass, pursuant to the provisions of Ga.Code § 26-1503.1 Becker was released on bond. Subsequently a preliminary hearing was held and she was arraigned.2

In the court below Steffel testified that he had not returned to the Center to handbill since the time of Becker's arrest because he did not "want to be arrested that badly."

Becker and Steffel filed this civil class action for declaratory and injunctive relief against Hudgins, the owner of the Center, Reynolds, his agent, Solicitor Thompson and Police Chief Hand of DeKalb County attacking the constitutionality of the Georgia criminal trespass statute as applied to them and their class in the distribution of hand bills at the Center, relying on Amalgamated Food Employees Union v. Logan Valley Plaza, Inc., 1968, 391 U.S. 308, 88 S.Ct. 1601, 20 L.Ed.2d 603 and Marsh v. Alabama, 1946, 326 U.S. 501, 66 S.Ct. 276, 90 L.Ed. 265.

The district court denied Becker's prayer for injunctive relief on the basis of Younger v. Harris, 1971, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669, and for declaratory relief, on the basis of Samuels v. Mackell, supra, because of the pending state criminal prosecution against her. No appeal has been taken by Becker.

The district court also denied both the injunctive and declaratory relief sought by Steffel, against whom no state criminal prosecution was pending.

Steffel's argument on brief points up the narrow issue presented on appeal as follows:

The District Court was correct in applying this "bad faith/harassment" test to appellant Steffel\'s request for injunctive relief against future threatened state court criminal prosecutions. See for example, Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. at 44-45 91 S.Ct. 746 where the Court stated that "These principles made clear in the Fenner case Fenner v. Boykin, 271 U.S. 240, 46 S.Ct. 492, 70 L.Ed. 927 great and immediate irreparable loss required to justify enjoining a state prosecution have been repeatedly followed and reaffirmed in other cases involving threatened prosecutions. (citing cases including Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 63 S.Ct. 877, 87 L.Ed. 1324 (1943).
The District Court erred, however, in applying this same stringent test to Appellants\' request for declaratory relief. * * * A different balance is to be struck concerning questions of federal-state comity where federal declaratory relief is sought and no state prosecution is pending against the plaintiff.

Stated another way, is the propriety of granting a declaratory judgment concerning threatened future criminal prosecution determined by the same test as the propriety of granting injunctive relief, i. e., bad faith harassment? Younger v. Harris, supra. May we transpose to this case, where no state prosecution was pending, what was said about declaratory relief in Samuels v. Mackell, supra, where a state prosecution was pending:

The same equitable principles relevant to the propriety of an injunction must be taken into consideration by federal district courts in determining whether to issue a declaratory judgment, and * * * where an injunction would be impermissible under
459 F.2d 922
these principles, declaratory relief should ordinarily be denied as well.

Id. 401 U.S. at 73, 91 S.Ct. at 768.

In limine we note that it was emphasized in the "Supreme Court's February sextet"3 that the resolution of the problems involved when a federal court is asked to give injunctive or declaratory relief from future state criminal prosecution was left to a later day. Thus the court clearly did not determine the propriety of federal declaratory relief against threatened criminal prosecution.

While the question was reserved, Younger made it clear beyond peradventure that irreparable injury must be measured by bad faith harassment4 and such test must be applied to a request for injunctive relief against threatened state court criminal prosecution. In fact, as we pointed out, Steffel concedes that this principle was viable even before Younger and was reiterated in it by the Court's reliance on Fenner v. Boykin, 1926, 271 U.S. 240, 46 S.Ct. 492, 70 L.Ed. 927, and Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 1943, 319 U.S. 157, 63 S.Ct. 877, 87 L.Ed. 1324. These cases underscore that "the determination of questions of criminal liability under state law by a federal court of equity, are to be supported only on a showing of danger of irreparable injury." Douglas at 163, 164, 63 S.Ct. at 881.

In Samuels v. Mackell, supra, it was made unequivocally clear that "ordinarily a declaratory judgment will result in precisely the same interference with and disruption of state proceedings that the long standing policy limiting injunctions was designed to avoid." Id. 401 U.S. at 72, 91 S.Ct. at 767. This is so, of course, because the declaratory judgment may serve as the basis for a subsequent injunction and "even if the declaratory judgment is not used as a basis for actually issuing an injunction, the declaratory relief alone has virtually the same practical impact as a formal injunction would." Id. Again the Court reserved the question concerning threatened as opposed to pending state prosecutions.

If the practical effects of injunctive and declaratory judgment remedies are identical because they result in the disruption of a state's enforcement of its criminal statutes when a criminal prosecution is pending, and therefore bad faith harassment must be shown before either remedy may issue, and if, as we have seen, the same test of bad faith harassment is prerequisite to injunctive relief in a threatened criminal prosecution, it follows that a like showing must be made for declaratory relief in a threatened prosecution. Although "The holdings of Younger and Samuels are narrow and limited to the propriety of declaratory or injunctive relief while state criminal proceedings are pending * * * Justice Black's discussion of Dombrowski Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1116, 14 L.Ed.2d 22 has much broader implications, suggesting that even when state proceedings have not yet begun, injunctive relief—as authorized by Dombrowski—or declaratory relief—as authorized by Zwickler v. Koota, 389 U.S. 241, 88 S. Ct. 391, 19 L.Ed.2d 444 a 1967 case relying heavily on Dombrowski—may be conditioned on the same bad faith requirements. * * * In short, the reasoning in Younger would appear to ignore any distinction between pending and threatened proceedings, and make denial of federal relief obligatory in both situations unless bad faith enforcement can be shown." (footnotes omitted) 85 Harv.L.Rev. 304, November, 1971.

In Wulp v. Corcoran, 1 Cir. 1972, ...

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29 practice notes
  • 44 274 Ellis v. Dyson 8212 130, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 19 Mayo 1975
    ...of irreparable injury to petitioners if the ordinance were enforced, a result felt to be mandated by the decision in Becker v. Thompson, 459 F.2d 919 (CA5), wherein it was held that the principles of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, applied not only where a state criminal prosecution was act......
  • Wall v. American Optometric Association, Inc., Civ. A. No. 16414
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • 21 Octubre 1974
    ...relief, Becker v. Thompson, 334 F.Supp. 1386 (N.D.Ga.1971), and Steffel appealed only the denial of declaratory relief. The Fifth Circuit, 459 F.2d 919 (1972), held that Samuels v. Mackell, supra, required it to use identical standards for injunctive and declaratory relief, and that the pri......
  • Cine-Com Theatres Eastern States, Inc. v. Lordi, Civ. A. No. 911-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 20 Noviembre 1972
    ...S.Ct. 674, 27 L.Ed.2d 701 (1971). The only court which seems to have adopted defendants' view is the Fifth Circuit in Becker v. Thompson, 459 F.2d 919 (5th Cir.), rehearing denied, 463 F.2d 1338 (5th Cir. 1972) (en banc), which rejects Wulp v. Corcoran, as well as Justice Brennan's concurre......
  • United States v. Dickinson, No. 71-3469.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 22 Agosto 1972
    ...constitutional rights in the context of a pending criminal prosecution than is a Federal Court, Becker v. Thompson, 5 Cir., 1972, 459 F.2d 919, it is generally inappropriate for a Federal Court to attempt by way of anticipation to protect the potential defendant from some possible denial of......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • 44 274 Ellis v. Dyson 8212 130, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 19 Mayo 1975
    ...of irreparable injury to petitioners if the ordinance were enforced, a result felt to be mandated by the decision in Becker v. Thompson, 459 F.2d 919 (CA5), wherein it was held that the principles of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, applied not only where a state criminal prosecution was act......
  • Wall v. American Optometric Association, Inc., Civ. A. No. 16414
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • 21 Octubre 1974
    ...relief, Becker v. Thompson, 334 F.Supp. 1386 (N.D.Ga.1971), and Steffel appealed only the denial of declaratory relief. The Fifth Circuit, 459 F.2d 919 (1972), held that Samuels v. Mackell, supra, required it to use identical standards for injunctive and declaratory relief, and that the pri......
  • Cine-Com Theatres Eastern States, Inc. v. Lordi, Civ. A. No. 911-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • 20 Noviembre 1972
    ...S.Ct. 674, 27 L.Ed.2d 701 (1971). The only court which seems to have adopted defendants' view is the Fifth Circuit in Becker v. Thompson, 459 F.2d 919 (5th Cir.), rehearing denied, 463 F.2d 1338 (5th Cir. 1972) (en banc), which rejects Wulp v. Corcoran, as well as Justice Brennan's concurre......
  • United States v. Dickinson, No. 71-3469.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 22 Agosto 1972
    ...constitutional rights in the context of a pending criminal prosecution than is a Federal Court, Becker v. Thompson, 5 Cir., 1972, 459 F.2d 919, it is generally inappropriate for a Federal Court to attempt by way of anticipation to protect the potential defendant from some possible denial of......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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