United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
V, EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss and
brief in support (Dkt. # 8). Plaintiff Gelon Luvern Barnes,
Jr. originally filed this action in the District Court of
Mayes County, Oklahoma, alleging conversion, unlawful seizure
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and retaliation pursuant
to § 1983. Dkt. # 2-1. Defendants removed the action to
this Court on July 30, 2018. Dkt. # 2. On August 6, 2018,
defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. Dkt. # 8. Plaintiff filed a response
(Dkt. # 10) to the motion, and defendants filed a reply (Dkt.
April 3, 2018, plaintiff and his wife, Jessica Barnes,
arrived separately at the residence of a babysitter who was
watching their children. Dkt. # 2-1, at 2. At the time,
plaintiff and Ms. Barnes were involved in divorce
proceedings, and each had a protective order against the
other from the District Court of Mayes County. Id.
Both plaintiff and Ms. Barnes contacted law enforcement to
come to the scene. Id. Law enforcement officials
arrived, and plaintiff left thereafter. Id.
April 5, 2018, plaintiff learned that Pryor Police Department
(PPD) Officers Justin Allen and Doug Barham wanted to speak
with him. Id. Plaintiff went to the PPD and met with
defendants Allen and Barham. Id. at 3. Allen
informed plaintiff that he was not under arrest. Id.
Plaintiff was asked whether he had ever violated a protective
order before and why he was present at the babysitter's
residence on April 3, 2018. Id. Plaintiff was then
asked to submit to a polygraph examination, at which point
plaintiff advised Allen and Barham that he would not answer
any more questions without his attorney present. Id.
When plaintiff stated that he was leaving to return to work,
Allen ordered plaintiff to put his hands behind his back and
informed him that he was under arrest. Id. Plaintiff
asked what he was being arrested for, and Allen simply stated
that he had probable cause. Id. Allen patted
plaintiff down, handcuffed him, and read him his
Miranda warnings. Id. While patting him
down, Allen asked plaintiff where his phone was located.
Id. Plaintiff again responded that he was not
talking without his attorney present. Id. Allen
stated that he was going to search plaintiff's vehicle,
to which plaintiff replied “not without a
warrant.” Id. Allen left while plaintiff was
being booked, and returned ten to fifteen minutes later with
plaintiff's work cell phone and personal cell phone.
Id. The two cell phones had been located inside
plaintiff's daughter's zipped backpack, which was
inside the vehicle he had driven to the police station.
Id. Allen was able to access plaintiff's work
cell phone by guessing the password; however, Allen was
unable to access plaintiff's personal cell phone.
Id. at 4. Plaintiff refused to access his personal
cell phone with his password, and Allen threatened to have
plaintiff arrested for obstruction. Id. At no point
did plaintiff provide defendants access to his personal cell
phone. Id. After plaintiff's cell phones had
already been taken into possession, defendant Jared Vance, a
PPD officer, applied for and obtained search warrants for the
two cell phones. Id.
days later, on April 9, 2018, plaintiff was charged with a
felony based on unrelated events. Specifically, plaintiff was
charged with assault with a dangerous weapon in Mayes County
No. CF-2018-117, for attempting to run over his
father-in-law, Terry Taylor, with a truck. Defendants allege
that, according to the probable cause affidavit in No.
CF-2018-117, Mr. Taylor had received a text message that
said, “Keep you're [sic] eyes open, stay focus
[sic], ” shortly after plaintiff attempted to strike
him with the truck, and that plaintiff was likely using a
cell phone application to send text messages that show up as
anonymous unknown numbers. Dkt. # 11, at 5 n.3.
April 16, 2018, plaintiff was charged with violation of a
protective order in Mayes County No. CM-2018-170, in
connection with the events that took place at the
babysitter's residence on April 3, 2018. Dkt. # 10-2.
13, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion to quash arrest and
suppress statements and other evidence in No. CF-2018-117
(assault with a dangerous weapon).
9, 2018, plaintiff filed a petition against defendants in the
District Court of Mayes County based on the events that took
place at the police station on April 5, 2018-specifically,
the search and seizure of plaintiff's property, as well
as his arrest. See generally id. Defendants removed
the action to this Court on July 30, 2018 (Dkt. # 2), and
then filed the motion to dismiss (Dkt. # 8) on August 6,
September 26, 2018, No. CM-2018-170 (charging plaintiff with
violation of protective order) was voluntarily dismissed.
Dkt. # 12. Therefore, the state court action charging
plaintiff with assault with a dangerous weapon (No.
CF-2018-117) is the only case still pending in state court at
assert that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to
hear the case pursuant to the Younger abstention
doctrine. The Younger doctrine requires a
federal court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a
case where “(1) state judicial proceedings are ongoing;
(2) [that] implicate an important state interest; and (3) the
state proceedings offer an adequate opportunity to litigate
federal constitutional issues.” Winnebago Tribe of
Neb. v. Stovall, 341 F.3d 1202, 1204 (10th Cir. 2003).
“Once these three conditions are met, Younger
abstention is non-discretionary and, absent extraordinary
circumstances, a district court is required to
abstain.” Crown Point I, LLC v. Intermountain Rural
Elec. Ass'n, 319 F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir. 2003).
The Court turns to whether Younger abstention is
applicable in the present case.
first factor for Younger abstention requires an
ongoing state judicial proceeding. As noted, No. CF-2018-117,
in which plaintiff is charged with assault with a dangerous
weapon for allegedly attempting to run over his father-in-law
with a truck, is still pending in state court.Therefore, there
is an ongoing state judicial proceeding. However, the
first factor of the Younger doctrine also requires
that the federal relief sought, if granted, will interfere
with that state proceeding. Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm.
v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982)
(“Younger v. Harris . . . and its progeny
espouse a strong federal policy against federal-court
interference with pending state judicial proceedings absent
extraordinary circumstances.”); J.B. ex rel. Hart
v. Valdez, 186 F.3d 1280, 1291-92 (10th Cir. 1999)
(holding that the first factor was satisfied because the
proceedings were ongoing and because the
“federal action would interfere with this
proceeding”). If the federal relief would not interfere
with the state proceedings, then the federal court has no
basis for abstaining under Younger.
Middlesex, 457 U.S. at 431. Here, plaintiff seeks
monetary relief only. The Supreme Court has not addressed
whether the Younger doctrine applies to federal
claims for monetary relief only; however, the Tenth Circuit
has held that “the Younger doctrine extends to
federal claims for monetary relief when a judgment for the
plaintiff would have preclusive effects on a pending
state-court proceeding.” D.L., 392 F.3d at
1228. Accordingly, this Court must determine
whether monetary relief in the present case would have a
preclusive effect on the pending state-court proceeding.
federal action arose from defendants' warrantless search
and seizure of plaintiff's vehicle and two cell phones,
which occurred when plaintiff went to the police station to
speak to defendants about the alleged violation of a
protective order. If the Court were to award money damages in
this case, the Court would be required to find that
defendants conducted an unlawful search and seizure of
plaintiff's vehicle and cell phones in violation of the
Fourth Amendment. The ongoing state court action arose from
an alleged attempt by plaintiff to run over his father-in-law
with a truck. In that state court action, plaintiff filed a
motion to quash arrest and suppress statements and other
evidence. Dkt. # 10-5. Plaintiff does not identify the