Medrano v. Allee, Civ. A. No. 67 B 36.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Citation347 F. Supp. 605
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 67 B 36.
PartiesFrancisco MEDRANO et al., Plaintiffs, v. A. Y. ALLEE et al., Defendants.
Decision Date26 June 1972

347 F. Supp. 605

Francisco MEDRANO et al., Plaintiffs,
A. Y. ALLEE et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 67 B 36.

United States District Court, S. D. Texas, Brownsville Division.

June 26, 1972.

347 F. Supp. 606
347 F. Supp. 607
347 F. Supp. 608
347 F. Supp. 609
Dixie, Wolf & Hall, Chris Dixie, Robert E. Hall, and George C. Dixie, Houston, Tex., for plaintiffs

Crawford C. Martin, Atty. Gen., Hawthorne Phillips, Allo B. Crow and Gilbert Pena, Asst. Attys. Gen., and Atlas, Schwarz, Gurwitz & Bland, Gary R. Gurwitz, McAllen, Tex., Luther E. Jones, Jr., Corpus Christi, Tex., Frank R. Nye, Jr., Rio Grande City, Tex., for defendants.

Before JOHN R. BROWN, Chief Judge, and GARZA and SEALS, District Judges.


SEALS, District Judge:

From June, 1966, until June, 1967, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, was engaged in an effort to encourage the predominantely Mexican-American farm laborers of the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas to join with the union in obtaining greater economic

347 F. Supp. 610
benefits for this class. The individual plaintiffs herein were at various times associated or in sympathy with this movment. In pursuit of their objectives, strikes were called; and picket lines, rallies and demonstrations were employed to enlist nonunion laborers in the common cause. These activities, and the responses triggered thereby, resulted in a controversy characterized on both sides by strong emotions and sometimes violent reactions. During this period supporters of the strike came into open conflict first with local and later state authorities, which led to numerous arrests and the initiation of prosecutions under various state laws. Finally, all picketing in support of the strike was enjoined by a state district court


Plaintiffs have brought this suit against certain Texas Rangers, officers of the State of Texas, and other public officials of Starr County, Texas, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The suit was filed as a class action by plaintiffs on behalf of those similarly situated; it is properly maintainable as such pursuant to Rule 23 (a) & (b) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

It is asserted that jurisdiction of the court over this complaint arises under Sections 1343, 2201, 2202, 2281 and 2284 of Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1983 and 1985 of Title 42, United States Code; and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in an attack on the constitutionality of certain state statutes, and an injunction is sought restraining defendants from enforcing these statutes against plaintiffs and their class. The complaint also alleges that defendants, as state officials acting under color of state law, conspired and did deprive plaintiffs of their civil rights, privileges and immunities protected by the laws and Constitution of the United States.

The disputed issues of fact and law were presented to the court, arguments of counsel have been heard and their briefs considered. The following constitutes the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law of this Court.

The first matter to be determined is the effect of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971) and its companion cases1 upon this litigation. Younger is not an abdication of the federal role in protecting citizens from "official lawlessness." It is a simple restatement of what has always been the law, namely, that a state criminal prosecution begun in good faith will not be enjoined, even on constitutional grounds by a federal court, except under extraordinary circumstances where the danger of irreparable injury is both great and immediate. Fenner v. Boykin, 271 U.S. 240, 243-244, 46 S.Ct. 492, 70 L.Ed. 927 (1926); Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 163-164, 63 S. Ct. 877, 87 L.Ed. 1324 (1943).2 In Younger the Supreme Court followed this long standing doctrine and held that a good faith prosecution under a possibly unconstitutional statute should not be enjoined absent special circumstances.3

347 F. Supp. 611
This result was predicated on two grounds: comity (the respect for the judicial processes of the States) and equity (the existence of an adequate remedy at law). 401 U.S. 37 at 43-44, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669. It is also clear from Younger that Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1116, 14 L.Ed.2d 22 (1965) is still the law, and that bad faith prosecution is the type of immediate and irreparable harm which justifies federal intervention to protect federally secured rights. 401 U.S. 37 at 48-49, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669. See, The Supreme Court, 1970 Term, 85 Harv.L.Rev. 40 at 301-315 (1971)

Where a plaintiff seeks to enjoin the enforcement of a state law, have it declared unconstitutional, and enjoin pending and further prosecutions under that law, and where his allegations are sufficient to invoke the equity jurisdiction of a federal court to protect federally secured rights, the three judge federal district court is required to examine the pleadings and proof in order to make the necessary findings on "bad faith prosecution," "harassment," and "irreparable injury" prior to granting or denying the requested relief. Dyson v. Stein, 401 U.S. 200, 91 S.Ct. 769, 27 L.Ed.2d 781 (1971), Byrne v. Karalexis, 401 U.S. 216, 91 S.Ct. 777, 27 L.Ed.2d 792 (1971). It is to this inquiry that we now direct our attention.


This panel was convened in Brownsville, Texas, and heard evidence presented by both parties concerning all phases of the controversy. Our evaluation of this evidence must be a general one—an appraisal of the circumstances as a whole. These findings in no way constitute conclusions by this Court as to whether plaintiffs are guilty or innocent of the various offenses for which they were arrested. The reach of our appraisal embraces a constitutional evaluation of the defendants' activities throughout the strike; it attempts nothing more.

Five of the defendants are Texas Rangers, employees of the State of Texas and residents of Dimmitt County, Texas. Defendant Solis is the Sheriff of Starr County, Texas, and defendants Raul Pena and Roberto Pena are Deputy Sheriffs of that county. All three of these defendants are residents of Starr County. One of the defendants is a Justice of the Peace of Starr County, Texas, Precinct No. 1. Defendant Jim Rochester is a Special Deputy in the Starr County Sheriff's Department and a resident of Starr County. This defendant at all times material to this action was also employed by one of the privately owned farms in Starr County in a managerial capacity.

347 F. Supp. 612
Plaintiffs contend that these defendants, acting in concert, unlawfully combined and conspired to deprive them of their civil rights

The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, instituted the strike on June 1, 1966, in an attempt to organize farm workers in Starr County. The strike lasted about thirteen months and received State and nationwide publicity, particularly during the period in which a Senate Investigating Committee held hearings in the area. In furtherance of the strike, picketing occurred every day (with the exception of Sundays) until enjoined by a State District Court. During the strike there was destruction of property belonging to the farms and property of the Missouri-Pacific Railroad Company. There were also acts of violence and threats of violence. In one instance a railroad bridge was partially destroyed by fire. Although it is inferred by defendants that this destruction and violence was caused because of the strike and by those in sympathy with it, no evidence was presented specifically in this respect. It was allegedly because of this that the Missouri-Pacific Railroad and Starr County officials requested the aid of Texas Rangers in order to preserve law and order. During this period State and local authorities made arrests on fifteen occasions in Starr County. On two occasions arrests were made in Hidalgo County and on some occasions in Cameron County. These out-of-county arrests were allegedly made because of attempted interference with the railroad's normal operation of trains in those counties.

This Court has carefully evaluated the evidence which counsel for both parties so ably presented, and we are confident that this evidence taken as a whole has provided us with the requisite perspective for determining plaintiffs' harassment charges. The record is long and involved and a lengthy summary and analysis of it all is not necessary. Our overall evaluation of the nature of defendants' actions is illustrated by the following specific incidents.

On June 8, 1966, Eugene Nelson, one of the strike's principal leaders was at the Roma, Texas, International Bridge between Mexico and the United States attempting to persuade laborers from Mexico to support the strike by refusing to work for the farms in the United States. Nelson was taken into custody by a Deputy Sheriff of Starr County and transported to the Courthouse in Rio Grande City where he was detained for some four hours without charges being filed against him. During this time he was taken before the County Attorney of Starr County who questioned him about his activities in regard to the strike and informed him that he would be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning an alleged threat to blow up the Courthouse and to destroy the buses being used by local farms to transport Mexican laborers to work.

On October 12, 1966, approximately twenty-five union members and sympathizers were picketing along the side of U. S. Highway 83 adjacent to the Rancho Grande Farms. Many of them were exhorting the laborers in the field to join the strike and one of...

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