Partington v. Gedan

Decision Date12 July 1989
Docket NumberNo. 87-2375,87-2375
Citation880 F.2d 116
PartiesEarle A. PARTINGTON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Joseph M. GEDAN; Howard T. Chang, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Earle A. Partington, Honolulu, Hawaii, for plaintiff-appellant.

Susan L. Gochros, Deputy Atty. Gen., Honolulu, Hawaii, for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Before WALLACE, REINHARDT and NOONAN, Circuit Judges.

WALLACE, Circuit Judge:

Attorney Partington filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 in the United States District Court, alleging that enforcement of Hawaii Supreme Court Rule 13 against him violated the first, fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. He sought a declaratory judgment stating that Rule 13 violated these constitutional provisions and an injunction barring any further proceedings against him pursuant to Rule 13. The district court concluded that abstention under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971) (Younger ), was appropriate because Partington could raise these constitutional challenges in the ongoing Rule 13 proceedings. We have jurisdiction and affirm.


The Hawaii trial court appointed Partington as trial counsel for Clarke. The State had charged Clarke with brutally murdering the three-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend. Partington represented Clarke at trial. Clarke was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Partington's appointment as counsel for Clarke continued on appeal. Clarke raised numerous contentions, but did not allege ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

During the pendency of the appeal, however, the state trial judge who presided at Clarke's trial complained to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Hawaii Supreme Court about Partington's failure to make a closing argument at Clarke's trial. Following this complaint, Partington filed a motion with the Hawaii Supreme Court, on behalf of Clarke, requesting that the Supreme Court remand the appeal to the trial court to explore the trial judge's complaint. The motion was denied.

During oral argument before the Hawaii Supreme Court on Clarke's criminal appeal, some Justices sua sponte raised the issue of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Hawaii Supreme Court subsequently reversed Clarke's conviction. Without addressing the numerous arguments made in Clarke's brief, the court declared that Partington rendered ineffective assistance during trial. The court based this conclusion on the following: (1) Partington refused to make an opening statement; (2) he refused to cross-examine the mother of the victim ostensibly because the State did not make certain records concerning the witness available to him; (3) he subsequently refused to call the mother after receiving the records; (4) he elicited testimony from two State witnesses that they believed Clarke was guilty; and (5) he refused to make a closing argument. The Hawaii Supreme Court's opinion concluded: "We remind both counsel of their obligations under [Hawaii Supreme Court Rule] 13 once a judgment on appeal has been issued by us in this case."

Hawaii Supreme Court Rule 13 1 outlines proceedings that are to be brought against In accordance with Rule 13, on February 3, 1986, the Hawaii Supreme Court appointed Gedan as the special master. On February 7, 1986, Gedan notified Partington that he had forty-five days to submit an answer "showing cause why corrective action as provided for in Rule 13 should not be taken by the Supreme Court." On March 27, 1986, Partington filed an answer in accordance with the Rule. Without waiving any constitutional challenges, Partington's answer stated that he based all of his trial decisions on certain tactics, but that he could not explain his tactical choices because his client at trial, Clarke, refused to waive the attorney-client privilege.

                defense counsel following the adjudication of his or her ineffective assistance in criminal cases.  Under Rule 13, the Hawaii Supreme Court appoints a special master "to determine whether action against the counsel alleged to have been incompetent is warranted."    Haw.Sup.Ct.R. 13.  Within five days of this appointment, the special master notifies the defense counsel by mail.  Within forty-five days of this mailing, the defense counsel must "file with the clerk of the supreme court an answer showing cause why corrective action as provided [in the Rule] should not be taken by the supreme court."    Id.  Within five days of receiving the defense attorney's answer, the special master must appoint an attorney to prosecute the proceedings.  Id.  The defense attorney and the special prosecutor then have forty-five days to conduct discovery.  Within thirty days after the expiration of the discovery period, the special master holds a hearing.  Within ten days after the conclusion of the hearing, the special master must render a decision and enter "an order either dismissing the proceedings or recommending corrective action against the respondent attorney."    Id.  Within twenty days of the special master's decision and proposed order, the defense attorney and the special prosecutor may file exceptions with the Hawaii Supreme Court.  Within forty days of the special master's decision and proposed order, the Supreme Court must "enter an order either dismissing the proceedings or ordering corrective action in accordance with the guidelines set forth" in the Rule.  Id

Gedan did not appoint a special prosecutor within five days of receiving the answer as provided in Rule 13; however, on August 13, 1986, Gedan appointed Chang as the special prosecutor. Notwithstanding the time schedule set forth in Rule 13, the record does not reflect that the parties engaged in discovery during the forty-five day period as provided in the Rule or that the special master set the matter for a hearing within thirty days of the close of the discovery period.

On March 9, 1987, Partington filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, naming Gedan and Chang as defendants. He alleged that the conduct of Gedan and Chang pursuant to Rule 13 deprived and continue to deprive him of rights under the free speech clause of the first amendment, the due process clause of the fifth and fourteenth amendments, the right to counsel clause of the sixth amendment, and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. The complaint sought (1) an injunction prohibiting Gedan and Chang from proceeding against Partington pursuant to Rule 13, (2) a declaratory On July 1, 1987, the district court granted the Defense Lawyers' motion to file the amicus brief, granted the motion of Gedan and Chang to dismiss the complaint, and denied Partington's motion for summary judgment. The district court concluded that Younger abstention, as interpreted and applied in Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Association, 457 U.S. 423, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982) (Middlesex ), should be applied. After the district court entered its judgment, Partington filed a timely notice of appeal, challenging the dismissal of the complaint.

judgment that Rule 13 as applied to Partington is unconstitutional, and (3) attorney's fees, costs, and expenses for the action. Partington also sought damages for attorney's fees and costs arising out of the Rule 13 proceeding, but later abandoned this claim. On March 30, 1987, Gedan and Chang moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the district court should abstain. They asserted that Partington could raise all of his constitutional claims in the Rule 13 hearing, which was scheduled to commence on April 14, 1987. The Rule 13 hearing was not held that day because Gedan stayed the hearing on Partington's request. On April 22, Partington filed a motion for summary judgment. On May 12, the Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Defense Lawyers) lodged a brief in the district court on behalf of Partington as amicus curiae.


Ordinarily, the dismissal of a complaint without the dismissal of the underlying action is not considered an appealable final order under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291. See Allen v. Veterans Administration, 749 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir.1984); Hoohuli v. Ariyoshi, 741 F.2d 1169, 1171 n. 1 (9th Cir.1984) (Hoohuli ). Here, the district judge abstained, but maintained jurisdiction over the cause by virtue of his failure to dismiss the underlying action. This procedure, if allowed, would grant the state permission to proceed first but allow the parties to maintain a federal court presence, if needed, after the state has finalized its assessment of the issues presented. See Crane v. Fauver, 762 F.2d 325, 328-29 (3d Cir.1985). We have jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal, however, because of the denial of Partington's request for an injunction preventing Gedan and Chang from proceeding against him pursuant to Rule 13. See 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(a)(1); Sea Ranch Association v. California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission, 537 F.2d 1058, 1061 (9th Cir.1976).

There is another reason why we may accept jurisdiction over this appeal. We have held that where Younger abstention is applicable, "a district court must dismiss the action." World Famous Drinking Emporium, Inc. v. City of Tempe, 820 F.2d 1079, 1081 (9th Cir.1987) (World Famous Drinking Emporium), quoting Fresh International Corp. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board, 805 F.2d 1353, 1356 (9th Cir.1986). Because the district judge was required to dismiss the action, we may assume he intended to do so and treat the dismissal of the complaint as a dismissal of the action. See Hoohuli...

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