United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES
JOHNSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
January 12, 2018, Defendants North Valley County Water and
Sewer District, Leon M. Pearce, Jerry Ketchum, Robert Esaias,
Cody James Tribby, Gary V. Callantine, and Alex Esteves
(“Defendants”) filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, arguing that the abstention doctrine set forth in
Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), precludes the
relief sought by Plaintiff Terry-Lee (“Mr.
Terry-Lee”). (Doc. 85). On January 24, 2018, Mr.
Terry-Lee filed an “Objection to and Take Exception to
Defendants[sic] Motion for Summary Judgment, ” which
the Court construes as a response brief. (Doc. 92).
Defendants filed their reply brief on February 7, 2018. (Doc.
96). The issue has been fully briefed and is ripe for
adjudication. Based on the foregoing, Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment should be granted.
January 15, 2015, Mr. Terry-Lee was charged in Valley County
Justice Court for theft of services, and was convicted on
June 5, 2015. (Doc. 87 at ¶1).Mr. Terry-Lee appealed his
conviction to the 17th Judicial District for the State of
Montana, Valley County, and was again convicted in Valley
County District Court on January 31, 2017. (Id.
¶¶3, 9). Subsequently, Mr. Terry-Lee appealed his
case to the Montana Supreme Court. On January 16, 2018, the
Montana Supreme Court upheld Mr. Terry-Lee's conviction.
State v. Terrance Lee Brauner, a/k/a Terry-Lee, 2018
WL 417289, 2018 MT 12N. On January 29, 2018, Mr. Terry-Lee
filed an objection and a petition for rehearing, which is
still pending in the Montana Supreme Court. See
Motion to Reconcider[sic] by Appellant, Jan. 29, 2018, DA
on June 3, 2015, Mr. Terry-Lee also filed a Complaint in the
United States District Court for the District of Montana,
Great Falls Division. (Doc. 1). On September 23, 2015, Mr.
Terry-Lee filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 40). In his
Complaint, Mr. Terry-Lee alleges that the defendants violated
his Fourth Amendment right to privacy, his Fourteenth
Amendment right to “equal protection of the laws,
” and his right to due process under the Fourth, Fifth,
and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as not being
“informed of the Nature and Cause of the Accusations in
violation of the Sixth Amendment.” (Id. at
4-9). Mr. Terry-Lee requests this Court to “provide
injunctive relief by putting a halt to everything that is
happening in state court in this matter” and that the
Court provide declaratory relief, in which the Court would
affirmatively declare that Mr. Terry-Lee's constitutional
rights were violated as set forth in his Amended Complaint.
(Id. at 12).
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), the party moving for summary judgment
must “show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” After the moving party satisfies this
burden, a court may enter summary judgment against a
non-moving party “who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party opposing
the motion “may not rest upon the mere allegations or
denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Moreover, “mere allegations and speculation do
not create a factual dispute for purposes of summary
judgment.” Nelson v. Pima Cmty. Coll., 83 F.3d
1075, 1081-82 (9th Cir. 1996).
to ongoing criminal proceedings are barred by the doctrine
set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Younger
v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Younger directs
federal courts to abstain from granting injunctive or
declaratory relief that would interfere with pending state
judicial proceedings. Martinez v. Newport Beach
City, 125 F.3d 777, 781 (9th Cir. 1997) overruled on
other grounds Green v. City of Tucson, 255 F.3d 1086
(9th Cir. 2001) (citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 40-41).
There is a strong policy against federal intervention in
state judicial processes in the absence of great and
immediate irreparable injury to the federal plaintiff.
Younger, 401 U.S. at 45; see also Gooding v.
Hooper, 394 F.2d 146 (9th Cir. 1968), cert. denied 391
U.S. 917 (1968).
federal court must abstain under Younger if four
requirements are met: (1) a state initiated proceeding is
ongoing; (2) the 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
proceeding or have the practical effect of doing so,
i.e., would interfere with the state proceeding in a
way that Younger disapproves. Gilbertson v.
Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 978 (9th Cir. 2004) (en banc);
AmerisourceBergen Corp. v. Roden, 495 F.3d 1143,
1149 (9th Cir. 2007).
four of the Younger doctrine requirements exist in
this action. First, Mr. Terry-Lee's underlying state
criminal action is still pending before the Montana Supreme
Court. See Motion to Reconcider[sic] by Appellant,
Jan. 29, 2018, DA 17-0278. Second, as stated in
Younger, criminal prosecution is an important state
interest, and the federal court “should not act to
restrain a criminal prosecution.” Younger, 401
U.S. at 43. Third, Mr. Terry-Lee is not precluded from making
his federal law claims in the state proceeding, as evidenced
by the fact that he raised essentially the same issues in his
Motion to Dismiss in the Valley County District Court
criminal case. (See Doc. 45-3 at 3-7). Finally, an
action by this Court to grant Mr. Terry-Lee's requested
relief would necessarily “enjoin the [state]
proceeding” because that is precisely the remedy Mr.
Terry-Lee seeks. (Doc. 40 at 12 (“I am requesting that
the court provide injunctive relief by putting a halt to
everything that is happening in state court in this
matter”). Therefore, the Court finds that the
Younger doctrine requires the Court to abstain from
adjudicating this matter.
met their burden to show there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that they are entitled to summary judgment,
the burden shifts to Mr. Terry-Lee to make a sufficient
showing of a genuine issue of material fact or law. See
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Notably, while Mr.
Terry-Lee rehashes much of his factual disputes with
Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, he does not
contest, or even address the Younger doctrine so as
to raise a genuine issue of material fact to preclude summary
judgment. “Only disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that
are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (citation omitted).
Therefore, the Court finds that Mr. Terry-Lee has not met his
burden to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact
which precludes summary judgment.