United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
Morris United States District Court Judge.
Ray Dean Wilson (Wilson) filed an Amended Complaint pro
se on December 16, 2016. (Doc. 4). Wilson was
incarcerated in the Butte Silver Bow County jail on the date
the Amended Complaint was filed. (Doc. 4 at 2). The Amended
Complaint, construed liberally, asserts claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Wilson alleges that his arrest and
prosecution for burglary violated his constitutional rights.
Named as Defendants are the State of Montana, the Montana
Second Judicial District Court, and the Butte Silver Bow
Police Department Patrol and Detectives. (Doc. 4 at 3).
Wilson seeks injunctive relief (dismissal of the burglary
charge and the return of the property that was confiscated),
and monetary damages.
States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered Findings
and Recommendations in this matter on January 4, 2017. (Doc.
7). Judge Lynch determined that Wilson's claims for
injunctive relief were barred by the Younger
abstention doctrine. (Doc. 7 at 4-7). Judge Lynch determined
that Wilson's claims for monetary relief should be
dismissed because Wilson had failed to name a proper
defendant against whom he could collect monetary damages.
(Doc. 7 at 7-8). Judge Lynch recommended that this action be
dismissed without prejudice. (Doc. 7 at 9). Wilson did not
file objections to Judge Lynch's Findings and
Court has reviewed Judge Lynch's Findings and
Recommendations for clear error. McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th
Cir. 1981). The Court finds no error in Judge Lynch's
Findings and Recommendations, and adopts them in full.
Claims for Injunctive Relief
claims for injunctive relief challenge pending state court
criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court's decision in
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) directs
federal courts to abstain from granting injunctive or
declaratory relief that would interfere with pending state
judicial proceedings. Id. at 40-41. A federal court
must abstain under Younger if the following four
requirements are met: (1) a state initiated proceeding is
ongoing; (2) the state judicial proceeding implicates
important state interests; (3) the federal plaintiff is not
barred from litigating federal constitutional issues in the
state proceeding; and (4) the federal court action would
enjoin the state proceeding or have the practical effect of
doing so. Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 978
(9th Cir. 2004).
elements of Younger abstention are established in
this case. First, there exists an ongoing criminal action
against Wilson in state court. Second, the criminal
proceeding implicates important state interests. The State of
Montana has a significant state interest in prosecuting
conduct that constitutes a criminal offense under Montana
law. Third, Wilson will have an adequate opportunity to
litigate federal constitutional issues in the state court
proceeding. Fourth, any decision by this Court as to whether
Wilson's arrest violated his constitutional rights would
unduly interfere with the state criminal proceeding. This
Court must therefore abstain from adjudicating Wilson's
claims for injunctive relief.
Claims for Monetary Relief Against the State of Montana
and the Montana Second Judicial District Court
Eleventh Amendment bars lawsuits in federal court against a
state or a state agency absent an express waiver of immunity
by the state. See Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene
Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 267-68 (1997); Puerto
Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority v. Metcalf &
Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144 (1993); Edelman
415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). The State of Montana has waived
immunity only for tort claims brought in state court. Mont.
Code Ann. § 2-9-102. Wilson's claims for monetary
damages against the State of Montana and the Montana Second
Judicial District Court are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
Claims for Monetary Relief Against the Butte Silver Bow
law provides that a municipal police department is a subunit
of the municipality. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 2-9-1-1,
102. The municipality is the entity responsible for the
conduct of the employees in its police department, not the
police department. State of Montana v. District Court of
the Thirteenth Judicial District, 550 P.2d 382, 384
(Mont. 1976). The Butte Silver Bow Police Department is not a
separate entity with the capacity to be sued. Id.
The Butte Silver Bow Police Department is therefore not a
IT IS ORDERED:
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 4) is ...