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Barnes v. Allen

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

February 15, 2019

GELON LUVERN BARNES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JUSTIN ALLEN, JARED VANCE, AND DOUG BARHAM, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CLAIRE V, EAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now 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. # 11).

         I.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         A few 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.

         On 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.

         On June 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).

         On July 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, 2018.

         On 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 this time.

         II.

         Defendants assert that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case pursuant to the Younger abstention doctrine.[1] 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.

         The 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.[2]Therefore, there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding.[3] 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.[4] Accordingly, this Court must determine whether monetary relief in the present case would have a preclusive effect on the pending state-court proceeding.

         The 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 ...


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