Lynch v. Snepp, No. 72-2377.

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
Writing for the CourtWINTER, CRAVEN and FIELD, Circuit
Citation472 F.2d 769
PartiesPhyllis LYNCH et al., Appellees, v. Frank W. SNEPP et al., Appellants.
Decision Date26 January 1973
Docket NumberNo. 72-2377.

472 F.2d 769 (1973)

Phyllis LYNCH et al., Appellees,
v.
Frank W. SNEPP et al., Appellants.

No. 72-2377.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued December 5, 1972.

Decided January 26, 1973.


472 F.2d 770

Charles A. Lloyd, Asst. Atty. Gen. of North Carolina (Robert Morgan, Atty. Gen. of North Carolina, on brief), for appellants Snepp and Moore.

George S. Daly, Jr., Charlotte, N. C., for appellees.

Before WINTER, CRAVEN and FIELD, Circuit Judges.

CRAVEN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal by judicial and executive officers of the State of North Carolina from the granting of a preliminary injunction against them by the United States District Judge, 350 F. Supp. 1134. The federal preliminary injunction has the effect of restraining in part the enforcement of a state injunction that undertook to control access to the public schools of Mecklenburg County by the public. We are thus confronted with an unfortunate juxtaposition of federal and state judicial power. The state's interest in the matter and the jurisdiction of its courts is predicated upon state police power and the maintenance of peace and the preventing of

472 F.2d 771
disruption in the operation of the public schools. The interest of the federal court, equally legitimate, is the vindication and protection of the right of freedom of speech and assembly pursuant to the first amendment. Both coordinate courts undoubtedly have subject matter jurisdiction

The federal court issued its preliminary injunction under the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which has now been held, Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 92 S.Ct. 2151, 32 L.Ed.2d 705 (1972), to be an express exception by the Congress to the bar of the anti-injunction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2283.1

That the federal court had jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and was not prevented from exercising it by 28 U.S. C. § 2283 does not end the matter. In Mitchum, supra, the Supreme Court, after holding that the anti-injunction statute was not a bar to the maintenance of a § 1983 case, then noted that "we do not question or qualify in any way the principles of equity, comity, and federalism that must restrain a federal court when asked to enjoin a state court proceeding." 407 U.S. at 243, 92 S.Ct. at 2162. Mitchum referred to Younger v. Harris for an exposition and statement of these principles. Younger and its companion cases2 were decided in the context of enjoining state criminal proceedings. In a concurring opinion in Mitchum the Chief Justice noted that the Court has "not yet reached or decided exactly how great a restraint is imposed by these principles on a federal court asked to enjoin state civil proceedings." 407 U.S. at 244, 92 S.Ct. at 2162.

It is that question we must decide here, i. e., to what extent the general notions of comity, equity and federalism, as exposited in Younger and its companion cases, apply in this civil context. The application of these principles must always be considered by federal judges in the course of determining whether or not to exercise jurisdiction to restrain state courts in a suit brought under § 1983. But to say that such principles are germane and applicable does not dictate the result in a given case. For reasons later exposited we think the application of such notions to the facts of this case indicate that the only appropriate course for the district court was to refrain from exercising its equitable jurisdiction. Therefore, we reverse the grant of preliminary injunction.

I.

The federal plaintiffs filed this suit against the superior court judge, the solicitor, and the sheriff of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, challenging, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the constitutionality of two orders issued by the North Carolina Superior Court.

On October 27, 1972, the solicitor had presented a sworn petition to the superior court stating that a state of emergency was imminent within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system as a result of certain episodes of violence and disruption. In response, the court issued a temporary restraining order, restraining all but students, employees, those with permission from school authorities, law enforcement officials, and parents transporting children to or from school from

472 F.2d 772
entering school property. The order gave notice that those wishing to contest the continuance of the injunction could do so by appearing at a show cause hearing to be held three days later

At least three of the four federal plaintiffs appeared at the show cause hearing and were found to be within the class designated defendants. On October 31, 1972, the superior court issued a preliminary injunction3 which substantially continued the visitation prohibitions of the restraining order.

Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed their action in the federal district court, challenging the orders of the superior court. The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the superior court orders. On November 15, 1972, the district court granted a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs, and the defendants appealed. This court issued an order staying in part the preliminary injunction pending appeal.

II.

The long-standing public policy against federal court interference with state court proceedings antedates the Constitution. Goebel, Antecedents and Beginnings to 1801, History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 226, 299 (Freund ed. 1971). This policy is founded in part on "the basic doctrine of equity jurisprudence that courts of equity should not act . . . when the moving party has an adequate remedy at law and will not suffer irreparable injury if denied equitable relief." Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44, 91 S.Ct. 746, 750 (1971). This equity doctrine is reinforced by the concepts of federalism.

We live in the jurisdiction of two sovereignties. Each has its own system of courts to interpret and enforce its laws, although in common territory. These courts could not perform their respective functions without embarrassing conflicts unless rules were adopted to avoid them.

Wilson v. Schnettler, 365 U.S. 381, 385, 81 S.Ct. 632, 635, 5 L.Ed.2d 620 (1961).

One such rule early adopted by the Court is that:

Where a state court and a court of the United States may each take jurisdiction, the tribunal which first gets it holds it to the exclusion of the other, until its duty is fully performed and the jurisdiction invoked is exhausted; and this rule applies alike in both civil and criminal cases.

Taylor v. Taintor, 16 Wall. 366, 370, 21 L.Ed. 287 (1873). See also Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 161-162, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908). Thus ordinarily the jurisdiction of a state court first obtained should not be interfered with by federal courts. Ex parte Chetwood, 165 U.S. 443, 17 S.Ct. 385, 41 L. Ed. 782 (1897); University Day Care Center, Inc. v. Temple University, 442

472 F.2d 773
F.2d 1116, 1118 (3d Cir. 1971); Ganger v. Peyton, 379 F.2d 710 (4th Cir. 1967)

Even though federal courts have the admitted power under the Civil Rights Acts to enjoin state proceedings, such power is not to be used to upset federalism and centralize power. Stefanelli v. Minard, 342 U.S. 117, 120, 72 S. Ct. 118, 96 L.Ed. 138 (1951). Sensitivity to the interests of two sovereignties requires that a federal equity court should enjoin state officers only when absolutely necessary to the protection of constitutional rights, Fenner v. Boykin, 271 U.S. 240, 46 S.Ct 492, 70 L.Ed. 927 (1926), and always with a proper regard for the rightful independence of state governments. Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315, 317-318, 63 S.Ct. 1098, 87 L.Ed. 1424 (1943); Pennsylvania v. Williams, 294 U.S. 176, 185, 55 S.Ct. 380, 79 L.Ed. 841 (1935).

In a case seeking to enjoin enforcement of a state civil statute, Mr. Justice Holmes stated:

No injunction ought to issue against officers of a State clothed with authority to enforce the law in question, unless in a case reasonably free from doubt and when necessary to prevent great and irreparable injury.

Massachusetts State Grange v. Benton, 272 U.S. 525, 527, 47 S.Ct 189, 190, 71 L.Ed. 387 (1926).

Likewise, Mr. Justice Cardozo cautioned that:

A prudent self restraint is called for . . . if state and national functions are to be maintained in stable equilibrium. Reluctance there has been to use the process of federal courts in restraint of state officials though the rights asserted by the complainants are strictly federal in origin.

Hawks v. Hamill, 288 U.S. 52, 53 S.Ct. 240, 77 L.Ed. 610 (1933).

Maintaining a stable equilibrium between our dual sovereignties is difficult at best. Erdmann v. Stevens, 458 F.2d 1205, 1212 (2d Cir. 1972). (Lumbard, J., concurring). The interest in protection of constitutional rights pulls in one direction and the interest in preserving the rightful independence of state judiciaries pulls in the opposite direction. Comment, Federal Court Stays of State Court Proceedings: A Re-examination of Original Congressional Intent, 38 U. Chi.L.Rev. 612-13 (1971).

Federalism means

a system in which there is sensitivity to the legitimate interests of both State and National Governments,
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56 practice notes
  • French v. Blackburn, No. C-76-52-WS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 31, 1977
    ...37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971); Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975), and Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769 (4th Cir. 1973), federal interference with the state judicial process is not present. There is no commitment proceeding pending in state cou......
  • Aristocrat Health Club of Hartford v. Chaucer, Civ. No. H-77-553.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • May 8, 1978
    ...Cir.), application for stay denied, 409 U.S. 1201, 92 S.Ct. 2610, 34 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972) (Rhenquist sic, Circuit Justice)." Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769, 773 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 983, 94 S.Ct. 1576, 39 L.Ed.2d 880 As a result, federal courts have dismissed injunctive and de......
  • Lamb Enterprises, Inc. v. Kiroff, Nos. 75-2450-54
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • January 31, 1977
    ...v. State of Texas, 477 F.2d 244, 251-52 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 978, 94 S.Ct. 1565, 39 L.Ed.2d 874 (1974); Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769, 771-73 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 983, 94 S.Ct. 1576, 39 L.Ed.2d 880 (1974); Cousins v. Wigoda, 463 F.2d 603, 606 (7th Cir. 1......
  • Simopoulos v. Virginia State Bd. of Medicine, No. 80-1431
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 19, 1981
    ...in state criminal proceedings might apply also to certain state civil proceedings. 12 However, Page 325 we concluded in Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769, 773 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 983, 94 S.Ct. 1576, 39 L.Ed.2d 880 (1974), that, in a proper set of circumstances, Younger would ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
56 cases
  • French v. Blackburn, No. C-76-52-WS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 31, 1977
    ...37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971); Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975), and Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769 (4th Cir. 1973), federal interference with the state judicial process is not present. There is no commitment proceeding pending in state cou......
  • Aristocrat Health Club of Hartford v. Chaucer, Civ. No. H-77-553.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • May 8, 1978
    ...Cir.), application for stay denied, 409 U.S. 1201, 92 S.Ct. 2610, 34 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972) (Rhenquist sic, Circuit Justice)." Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769, 773 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 983, 94 S.Ct. 1576, 39 L.Ed.2d 880 As a result, federal courts have dismissed injunctive and de......
  • Lamb Enterprises, Inc. v. Kiroff, Nos. 75-2450-54
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • January 31, 1977
    ...v. State of Texas, 477 F.2d 244, 251-52 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 978, 94 S.Ct. 1565, 39 L.Ed.2d 874 (1974); Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769, 771-73 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 983, 94 S.Ct. 1576, 39 L.Ed.2d 880 (1974); Cousins v. Wigoda, 463 F.2d 603, 606 (7th Cir. 1......
  • Simopoulos v. Virginia State Bd. of Medicine, No. 80-1431
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 19, 1981
    ...in state criminal proceedings might apply also to certain state civil proceedings. 12 However, Page 325 we concluded in Lynch v. Snepp, 472 F.2d 769, 773 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 983, 94 S.Ct. 1576, 39 L.Ed.2d 880 (1974), that, in a proper set of circumstances, Younger would ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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