Coats v. Woods

Decision Date05 June 1987
Docket NumberNos. 86-5712,86-6046,s. 86-5712
Citation819 F.2d 236
PartiesCharlotte COATS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Stephen WOODS; Orange County Superior Court; Jack Mandel; James Cook; Commissioner Evans; Commissioner Fassell; County of Orange; Thomas H. Schulte; Jane M. Egley; United Fathers; Henry J. Kohler; William C. Armstrong; Gail Armstrong; Costa Mesa Police Department, Newport-Mesa School District, Defendants-Appellees. Charlotte COATS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Stephen WOODS, Orange County Superior Court; Jack Mandel; James Cook; Commissioner Fassell; County of Orange; Thomas H. Schulte; Jane M. Egley; United Fathers; Henry J. Kohler; William C. Armstrong; Gail Armstrong; Costa Mesa Police Department; Newport-Mesa School District, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Charlotte Coats, Santa Ana, Cal., plaintiff-appellant.

David N. Kauth, Santa Ana, Cal., Kevin M. Tripi, Costa Mesa, Cal., Jeanne E. Emrich, Irvine, Cal., Bruce Fuhrer, Los Angeles, Cal., Brandt Caudill, Irvine, Cal., C. William Nyman, L. Thomas Krahelski, Santa Ana, Cal., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before PREGERSON, NELSON, and WIGGINS, Circuit Judges.

PREGERSON, Circuit Judge:

Charlotte Coats brought these actions, under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, in which she alleged that her husband and others wrongfully deprived her of the custody of her two children. The district court abstained from hearing the cases on the ground that the actions, involving child custody, implicated domestic relations issues, traditionally an area of state concern. Coats appeals from the district court's dismissal of the actions. We affirm.

Following divorce from her husband, William Armstrong, Coats obtained sole custody of their two sons from 1971 until 1983. In 1983, Armstrong commenced custody proceedings in state court. There he gained visitation rights, then joint custody, and, finally, sole custody of the children. Coats appealed the decision awarding sole custody to Armstrong to the California Supreme Court, but was denied review. Coats now has two cases pending in state court, one involving the constitutional issues raised in this action, and another focusing on state law custody matters.

Defendants in the two similar federal court actions that form the basis for these appeals include Armstrong, his present wife, their attorney, the court-appointed attorney for the two children, a court-appointed psychologist, two court commissioners, two Superior Court judges, the Orange County Superior Court, the County of Orange Costa Mesa Police Department, the Newport-Mesa School District, and an organization called United Fathers. In her complaint, Coats alleges that these defendants wrongfully deprived her of child custody (thus depriving her of a liberty interest) in violation of 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1983, 1985(2), and 1985(3).

Coats filed her first federal district court action on November 22, 1985. The district court dismissed the action on February 5, 1986, based on the doctrine of equitable abstention. Coats filed her second action in district court on February 19, 1986. In her latest complaint, she added four defendants, dropped one defendant, and made additional factual allegations. This action was dismissed on May 30, 1986, on the same legal basis as the initial action. Coats timely appeals from both dismissals, and this court has consolidated Coats' appeals for decision.

We r...

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  • Swayne v. LDS Social Services, Civ. No. 87-C-0591G.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Utah
    • September 3, 1987
    ...been reluctant to get into custody disputes wherein private parties contest what is in the best interest of a child. See Coats v. Woods, 819 F.2d 236, 237 (9th Cir.1987); Peterson v. Babbitt, 708 F.2d 465, 466 (9th Cir.1983); LaMontagne v. LaMontagne, 394 F.Supp. 1159, 1160 Admittedly this ......
  • Santos v. County of Los Angeles Dept. of Children
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • January 6, 2004
    ...over ... domestic disputes [in which a federal court is asked to adjudicate child custody]. Peterson, 708 F.2d at 466; Coats v. Woods, 819 F.2d 236, 237 (9th Cir.1987). Therefore, plaintiff's ninth and tenth causes of action are dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.9 IV A motio......
  • Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, s. 87-4123
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • April 20, 1989
    ...v. Arizona Downs, 670 F.2d 813 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 1011, 102 S.Ct. 2308, 73 L.Ed.2d 1308 (1982); see also Coats v. Woods, 819 F.2d 236, 237 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 108 S.Ct. 46, 98 L.Ed.2d 11 (1987). The abuse of discretion standard likewise should apply to t......
  • Evans v. Hepworth
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Idaho
    • January 16, 2020
    ...decrees in cases of continuing judicial supervision by the state makes federal abstention in [such] cases appropriate. Coats v. Woods , 819 F.2d 236, 237 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Peterson v. Babbitt , 708 F.2d 465, 466 (9th Cir. 1983) ).Because Idaho's significant interests in enforcing the......
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