Trainor v. Hernandez, No. 75-1407

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE
Citation97 S.Ct. 1911,431 U.S. 434,52 L.Ed.2d 486
Docket NumberNo. 75-1407
Decision Date31 May 1977
PartiesJames TRAINOR, etc., et al., Appellants, v. Juan HERNANDEZ et al., etc

431 U.S. 434
97 S.Ct. 1911
52 L.Ed.2d 486
James TRAINOR, etc., et al., Appellants,

v.

Juan HERNANDEZ et al., etc.

No. 75-1407.
Argued Jan. 18, 1977.
Decided May 31, 1977.
Syllabus

Rather than charging appellees with the crime of fraudulently concealing assets while applying for and receiving public assistance, the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) brought a civil action against appellees in state court seeking only a return of the welfare payments alleged to have been wrongfully received, and as part of the action a writ of attachment was issued and executed pursuant to the Illinois Attachment Act against appellees' property without notice or hearing. Instead of seeking a prompt hearing in the state court or moving there to quash the attachment on federal constitutional grounds, appellees filed suit against appellant IDPA officials in Federal District Court, alleging that the Attachment Act was unconstitutional in that it provided for deprivation of debtors' property without due process of law, and seeking, inter alia, return of the attached property. Declining to dismiss the complaint under the doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669, and Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482, a three-judge court held the Act unconstitutional and issued an injunction directing return of appellees' attached property. Held: The District Court should have dismissed appellees' complaint under Younger, supra, and Huffman, supra, unless their state remedies were inadequate to litigate their federal due process claim, since the injunction asked for and issued by the court interfered with Illinois' efforts to utilize the Attachment Act as an integral part of the State's enforcement action. Pp. 440-447.

(a) The principles of Younger and Huffman are broad enough to apply to interference by a federal court with an ongoing civil enforcement action such as this, brought by the State in its sovereign capacity. Pp. 443-444.

(b) For the federal court to have proceeded with the case rather than remitting appellees to their remedies in the pending state suit confronts the State with the choice of engaging in duplicative litigation, thereby risking a temporary federal injunction, or of interrupting its enforcement proceedings pending the federal court's decision at some unknown time in the future; and forecloses the state court's opportunity

Page 435

to construe the challenged statute in the face of the federal constitutional challenges that would also be pending for decision before it. P. 445.

(c) There was no basis for the District Court's proceeding to judgment on the ground that extraordinary circumstances warranted federal interference. There is no suggestion that the pending state action was brought in bad faith or to harass appellees and no basis for finding that the Attachment Act violated "express constitutional provisions in every clause, sentence and paragraph and in whatever manner and against whomever an effort might be made to apply it." Pp. 446-447.

405 F.Supp. 757, reversed and remanded.

John A. Dienner, III, Chicago, Ill., for appellees Finley and Elrod in support of the appellants.

Paul J. Bargiel, Chicago, Ill., for appellants.

Fred L. Lieb, Chicago, Ill., for appellees.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., on October 30, 1974, against appellees Juan and Maria Hernandez, alleging that they had fraudulently concealed assets while applying for and receiving public assistance. Such conduct is a crime under Illinois law, Ill.Rev.Stat., c. 23, § 11-21 (1973). The IDPA, however, proceeded civilly and sought only return of the money alleged to have been wrongfully

Page 436

received. The IDPA simultaneously instituted an attachment proceeding against appellees' property. Pursuant to the Illinois Attachment Act, Ill.Rev.Stat., c. 11 (1973) (Act), the IDPA filed an affidavit setting forth the nature and amount of the underlying claim and alleging that the appellees had obtained money from the IDPA by fraud.1 The writ of attachment was issued automatically 2 by the clerk of the court upon receipt of this affidavit.3 The writ

Page 437

was then given to the sheriff who executed it, on November 5, 1974, on money belonging to appellees in a credit union. Appellees received notice of the attachment, freezing their money in the credit union, on November 8, 1974, when they received the writ, the complaint, and the affidavit in support of the writ. The writ indicated a return date for the attachment proceeding of November 18, 1974.4 Appellees appeared in court on November 18, 1974, and were informed that the matter would be continued until December 19, 1974. Appellees never filed an answer either to the attachment or to the underlying complaint.5 They did not seek a prompt hear-

Page 438

ing, nor did they attempt to quash the attachment on the ground that the procedures surrounding its issuance rendered it and the Act unconstitutional. Instead appellees filed the instant lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 2, 1974, seeking, inter alia, return of the attached money. The federal complaint alleged that the appellees' property had been attached pursuant to the Act and that the Act was unconstitutional in that it provided for the deprivation of debtors' property without due process of law. Appellees as plaintiffs sought to represent a class of those "who have had or may have their property attached without notice or hearing upon the creditor's mere allegation of fraudulent conduct pursuant to the Illinois Attachment Act." App. 6-7. They named as defendants appellants Trainor and O'Malley, officials of the IDPA, and sought declaration of a defendant class made up of all the court clerks in the Circuit Courts of Illinois, and of another defendant class of all sheriffs in Illinois. They sought an injunction against Trainor and O'Malley forbidding them to seek attachments under the Act and an injunction against the clerks and sheriffs forbidding them to issue or serve writs of attachment under the Act. Appellees also sought preliminary relief in the form of an order directing the Sheriff of Cook County to release the property which had been attached. Finally, appellees sought the convening of a three-judge court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284.

The District Court declined to rule on the request for preliminary relief because the parties had agreed that one-half of the money in the credit union would be returned. A three-judge court was convened. It certified the suit as a plaintiff and defendant class action as appellees had requested. App. 63. In an opinion dated December 19, 1975, almost one year after the return date of the attachment in state court, it

Page 439

declined to dismiss the case under the doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975), stating:

"In Huffman, the State of Ohio proceeded under a statute which gave an exclusive right of action to the state. By contrast, the Illinois Attachment Act provides a cause of action for any person, public or private. It is mere happenstance that the State of Illinois was the petitioner in this attachment proceeding. It is likewise coincidental that the pending state proceedings may arguably be quasi-criminal in nature; under the Illinois Attachment Act, they need not be. These major distinctions preclude this Court from extending the principles of Younger, based on considerations of equity, comity and federalism, beyond the quasi-criminal situation set forth in Huffman." Hernandez v. Danaher, 405 F.Supp. 757, 760 (1975).

Proceeding to the merits, it held §§ 1, 2, 2a, 6, 8, 10, and 14 of the Act to be "on (their face) patently violative of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution." 405 F.Supp., at 762. It ordered the clerk of the court and the Sheriff of Cook County to return to appellees the rest of their attached property; it enjoined all clerks and all sheriffs from issuing or serving attachment writs pursuant to the Act and ordered them to release any currently held attached property to its owner; and it enjoined appellants Trainor and O'Malley from authorizing applications for attachment writs pursuant to the Act. App. 65-66. Appellants appealed to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1253, claiming that under Younger and Huffman principles the District Court should have dismissed the suit without passing on the constitutionality of the Act and that the Act is in any event constitutional.6 Since we agree with appellants that Younger and

Page 440

Huffman principles do apply here, we do not reach their second claim.

Because our federal and state legal systems have overlapping jurisdiction and responsibilities, we have frequently inquired into the proper role of a federal court, in a case pending before it and otherwise within its jurisdiction, when litigation between the same parties and raising the same issues is or apparently soon will be pending in a state court. More precisely, when a suit is filed in a federal court challenging the constitutionality of a state law under the Federal Constitution and seeking to have state officers enjoined from enforcing it, should the federal court proceed to judgment when it appears that the State has already instituted proceedings in the state court to enforce the challenged statute against the federal plaintiff and the latter could tender and have his federal claims decided in the state court?

Younger v. Harris, supra, and Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L.Ed.2d 688 (1971), addressed these questions where the already pending state proceeding was a criminal prosecution and the federal...

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523 practice notes
  • Santana v. Collazo, Civ. No. 75-1187
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • February 15, 1982
    ...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); Trainor v. Hernández, 431 U.S. 434, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977); Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 97 S.Ct. 1211, 51 L.Ed.2d 376 (1977); Fernández v. Trías Monge, 586 F......
  • Smith v. Travis County Educ. Dist., Civ. No. A-92-CA-75
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • May 1, 1992
    ...§ 1983 action. See Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 242-243, 92 S.Ct. 2151, 2162, 32 L.Ed.2d 705 (1972); see also Trainor v. Hernandez, 431 U.S. 434, 444, n. 8, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 1918, n. 8, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977). Actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 fall within the "expressly authorized" exceptions......
  • Noone v. Town of Palmer, C.A. No. 12–CV–30206–MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 26, 2014
    ...to sanction any decision that would ‘reflec[t] negatively upon [a] state court's ability to do so.’ ”) (quoting Trainor v. Hernandez, 431 U.S. 434, 443, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977)). Quite to the contrary, this court finds that state procedure does provide adequate remedies. See St......
  • Morgan Drexen, Inc. v. Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, Civil Action No. 13–01112 (CKK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 17, 2013
    ...the distinction between criminal prosecution and civil enforcement that Morgan Drexen seeks to draw here. SeeTrainor v. Hernandez, 431 U.S. 434, 444, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977) (holding that “the principles of Younger ... are broad enough to apply to interference by a federal cour......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
526 cases
  • Santana v. Collazo, Civ. No. 75-1187
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • February 15, 1982
    ...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); Trainor v. Hernández, 431 U.S. 434, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977); Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 97 S.Ct. 1211, 51 L.Ed.2d 376 (1977); Fernández v. Trías Monge, 586 F......
  • Smith v. Travis County Educ. Dist., Civ. No. A-92-CA-75
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • May 1, 1992
    ...§ 1983 action. See Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 242-243, 92 S.Ct. 2151, 2162, 32 L.Ed.2d 705 (1972); see also Trainor v. Hernandez, 431 U.S. 434, 444, n. 8, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 1918, n. 8, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977). Actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 fall within the "expressly authorized" exceptions......
  • Noone v. Town of Palmer, C.A. No. 12–CV–30206–MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 26, 2014
    ...to sanction any decision that would ‘reflec[t] negatively upon [a] state court's ability to do so.’ ”) (quoting Trainor v. Hernandez, 431 U.S. 434, 443, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977)). Quite to the contrary, this court finds that state procedure does provide adequate remedies. See St......
  • Community Treatment Centers v. City of Westland, No. 97-CV-70439-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • June 24, 1997
    ...law); Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 97 S.Ct. 1211, 51 L.Ed.2d 376 (1977) (state civil contempt proceeding); Trainor v. Hernandez, 431 U.S. 434, 97 S.Ct. 1911, 52 L.Ed.2d 486 (1977) (civil enforcement action brought by the state). Moreover, it is well-settled that for Younger purposes, the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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