Westin v. McDaniel, Civ. A. No. 91-75-3-MAC(DF).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Georgia
Citation760 F. Supp. 1563
Decision Date01 April 1991
PartiesRobert P. WESTIN, Plaintiff, v. Robin McDANIEL, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 91-75-3-MAC(DF).

760 F. Supp. 1563

Robert P. WESTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
Robin McDANIEL, et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 91-75-3-MAC(DF).

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division.

April 1, 1991.


760 F. Supp. 1564

Hulane E. George, Milledgeville, Ga., for plaintiff.

Marc T. Treadwell, Macon, Ga., Joseph A. Boone, Irwinton, Ga., Neal B. Childers, Atlanta, Ga., for defendants.

FITZPATRICK, District Judge.

In this unusual case filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff has moved this court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting the State of Georgia from seeking to have him indicted on criminal charges. Jurisdiction is based on § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343. The court is well aware of the importance of the issues presented, and after reviewing both the facts and the law, has decided to grant the requested injunction.

I. BACKGROUND

Robert Westin is an attorney in Gordon, Georgia, in Wilkinson County. He practices by himself and, in addition to having a substantial criminal law practice, serves as a Judge of the Recorder's Court in Gordon and city attorney for the town of McIntyre.

Also in Wilkinson County, Doug Sanders and Alana Fuller, his girlfriend, had been acting as confidential informants for Robin McDaniel, an agent of the Ocmulgee Drug Task Force, in hopes of receiving lenient treatment on their own pending drug charges. At one point, they divulged to a third person that he was a target of McDaniel's investigation. After learning of this, McDaniel had them arrested on additional drug charges, after which they again agreed to cooperate with her.

After being released, Sanders and Fuller changed their minds. On February 6, 1991, at the home of Sanders' mother, they requested that Westin represent them, and informed him that McDaniel was working undercover at Layson's Bar, in Gordon, using the name "Natasha Childers." Westin agreed to act as their attorney, and decided to speak with McDaniel. From this house, Westin saw McDaniel leave Sanders' nearby house before he could contact her. Sanders attempted to contact McDaniel through her beeper, but was unsuccessful. Westin called the bar, asked if Natasha was there and hung up after being told that she was. He then went to the bar, and upon entering saw McDaniel at the bar talking with the bartender. He walked up to the agent and said, "Hi, Robin." When McDaniel told him that her name was Natasha, Westin corrected himself, all in a conversational tone of voice. Westin then identified himself as an attorney, and McDaniel immediately requested that they go upstairs to continue their conversation.

Upstairs and away from others in the bar, Westin related that he now represented Sanders and Fuller, who no longer wished to work for McDaniel, and that in the future any communications between McDaniel and his clients would have to go through him. The conversation continued as Westin tried to find out more about the charges facing his clients; they also discussed the drug problem in Gordon generally. McDaniel expressed the fear that Sanders and Fuller had blown her cover already, but Westin assured her that he had told them to say nothing about their case. Westin then left.

McDaniel, believing that the others in the bar were acting strangely towards her after the conversation with Westin and that her cover had been blown, left and went to Robert Williams, the head of the Ocmulgee Drug Task Force, to tell him what had happened. He contacted Joseph Briley, the District Attorney for Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. After their conversation, Briley considered the matter for a few moments, then called back and directed McDaniel to swear out a warrant for Westin's arrest on charges of hindering a law enforcement officer, a violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24.1

760 F. Supp. 1565
McDaniel was unable to tell the Magistrate whether the charge was to be listed as a felony or a misdemeanor, so that official issued a felony warrant, apparently depending on another judge to downgrade the charge later in the proceedings if he were mistaken

The next day, February 7, Westin was arrested at his office. Several other persons who had been charged with drug offenses were arrested and booked at the same time. The authorities had alerted the news media, so both newspaper and television reporters were present at Westin's booking. McDaniel gave interviews to both newspaper and television reporters. Williams gave an interview in which he mentioned that disbarment was a possibility for Westin.

Although the Magistrate's court was nearby, Westin was transported to Baldwin County for a bond hearing before the Honorable John Lee Parrott, a Superior Court Judge. Chief Assistant District Attorney Alberto C. Martinez and Hulane E. George, Westin's counsel, were already in Judge Parrott's court on other matters. Martinez had asked Judge Parrott to allow Westin to be brought to Baldwin County. While the attorneys and the Judge were conferring, Westin was left handcuffed in a public area of the Baldwin County courthouse. Eventually, bond was granted in the sum of $10,000.00. Martinez suggested, and Judge Parrott agreed, that as conditions for the granting of bond Westin was to be suspended from the practice of criminal law and from acting as Recorder's Judge. Westin consented and was released.

Sanders had also been arrested, and the next day McDaniel questioned him in jail. Although she knew of the conditions of Westin's bond, she did not inform Sanders that Westin was no longer representing him, and there is no evidence to show that Sanders realized that he no longer had an attorney.

On February 28, a commitment hearing was held before Senior Judge James B. O'Connor, who had been called to preside over it after the judges of the Ocmulgee Circuit recused themselves. At the end of the extensive hearing, Martinez stated that Westin could only be charged with a misdemeanor. Judge O'Connor issued an order on March 1, which dismissed the charges against Westin since there had been no evidence that he had broken the law "knowingly and willfully" as required by O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24(a). The order noted that there was no direct proof that anyone else had overheard the conversation in the bar, although this was possible. Although the court found that Westin had suggested that it might not be safe for McDaniel to continue her activities, the order specifically stated that Westin's conduct was justified in the legitimate interests of his client and possibly himself, since there was reason to believe that McDaniel regarded Westin as a possible target of her investigation.

After this order was issued, District Attorney Briley decided to take his evidence against Westin to the Wilkinson County grand jury and so reconvened that body, although he did not need an indictment to prosecute a misdemeanor. The grand jury was scheduled to meet on the afternoon of March 11, but that morning Westin filed this suit seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and damages. This court entered a restraining order preventing the grand jury from hearing evidence against Westin, and the session was canceled. This court has since heard oral arguments and testimony on two occasions, while the temporary restraining order has been extended by the agreement of the parties and at the request of the court until April 2.

II. DISCUSSION

The court is well aware of the gravity of the relief requested by Westin. He wants

760 F. Supp. 1566
this court to enjoin the State of Georgia from seeking to indict him, a request which raises serious questions. By contrast, the rights he seeks to vindicate hold a near-sacred place in our constitution, and his treatment calls into question the conduct of the State's officers

A federal court should not interfere in state affairs absent extraordinary reasons. Where such reasons exist, however, intervention is not only permissible, but practically mandated if needed to protect federal rights. The central reason for this policy of non-interference is federalism, a fundamental doctrine of our system of government by which power is shared between the federal and state governments. The presence of a federalism question would present a powerful obstacle to the plaintiff, but whether such a hurdle actually exists depends on whether a case can be said to be "pending" in the state court system and whether substantial proceedings on the merits have taken place in this court. Regardless of whether this problem exists, however, Westin is entitled to the protection of an injunction.

A. THE ABSENCE OF A FEDERALISM PROBLEM

1. Younger v. Harris Does Not Apply

The starting point of the court's analysis is the axiomatic rule that, subject to certain rare exceptions, a federal court should not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding because of the interests of equity, comity and federalism. See, Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). In Younger, the Supreme Court reversed the granting of an injunction against the enforcement of a California criminal statute held unconstitutional on its face. After noting that 28 U.S.C. § 2283 provides only three statutory exceptions to the rule against injunctions,2 the Court grounded its opinion on the question of whether Harris had met the burden of showing that an irreparable injury would result without an injunction so as to meet a judicial exception to the rule. The decision that he had not was based on the "fundamental policy against federal interference with state criminal prosecutions," which is itself based on the doctrines that equity should not act when there is an adequate remedy at law and, more importantly, of comity, or the respect for state functions enshrined in our system of government. 401 U.S. at 43-46, 91 S.Ct. at 750-52.

The requirement of an irreparable injury, the Court reasoned, consists of a great and immediate injury, not just the cost, anxiety and inconvenience of having to defend...

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11 practice notes
  • Office of Child Advocate v. Lindgren, No. C.A. 86-0723L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • January 8, 2004
    ...court should further interests of equity, comity and federalism and not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding. Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F.Supp. 1563, 1566 (M.D.Ga.1991)(citing Younger, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746). The Supreme Court developed the Younger doctrine in respect for state func......
  • Davis v. DiPino, No. 1855
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1996
    ...state failed to show that the defendant knew that the officer was engaged in the course of his duties. Id. 9 Page 60 Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F.Supp. 1563 (M.D.Ga.1991), aff'd,949 F.2d 1163 (11th Cir.1991), is also noteworthy. There, an attorney representing two confidential informants greet......
  • Environmental Waste Reductions, Inc. v. Reheis, Civ. A. No. 1:94-cv-1498-FMH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 1, 1995
    ...the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff EWR also has demonstrated irreparable injury. Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F.Supp. 1563, 1569 (M.D.Ga. 1991), aff'd, 949 F.2d 1163 (11th Cir.1991); see also Roso-Lino Beverage Distribs., Inc. v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of N.Y., Inc.......
  • Office of the Child Advocate v. Lindgren, C.A. 86-0723L (D. R.I. 1/7/2004), C.A. 86-0723L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • January 7, 2004
    ...court should further interests of equity, comity and federalism and not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding. Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F. Supp. 1563, 1566 (M.D. Ga. 1991)(citing Younger, 401 U.S. 37), The Supreme Court developed the Younger doctrine in respect for state functions, reco......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Office of Child Advocate v. Lindgren, No. C.A. 86-0723L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • January 8, 2004
    ...court should further interests of equity, comity and federalism and not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding. Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F.Supp. 1563, 1566 (M.D.Ga.1991)(citing Younger, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746). The Supreme Court developed the Younger doctrine in respect for state func......
  • Davis v. DiPino, No. 1855
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1996
    ...state failed to show that the defendant knew that the officer was engaged in the course of his duties. Id. 9 Page 60 Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F.Supp. 1563 (M.D.Ga.1991), aff'd,949 F.2d 1163 (11th Cir.1991), is also noteworthy. There, an attorney representing two confidential informants greet......
  • Environmental Waste Reductions, Inc. v. Reheis, Civ. A. No. 1:94-cv-1498-FMH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 1, 1995
    ...the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff EWR also has demonstrated irreparable injury. Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F.Supp. 1563, 1569 (M.D.Ga. 1991), aff'd, 949 F.2d 1163 (11th Cir.1991); see also Roso-Lino Beverage Distribs., Inc. v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of N.Y., Inc.......
  • Office of the Child Advocate v. Lindgren, C.A. 86-0723L (D. R.I. 1/7/2004), C.A. 86-0723L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • January 7, 2004
    ...court should further interests of equity, comity and federalism and not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding. Westin v. McDaniel, 760 F. Supp. 1563, 1566 (M.D. Ga. 1991)(citing Younger, 401 U.S. 37), The Supreme Court developed the Younger doctrine in respect for state functions, reco......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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