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Evans v. Daly

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

November 16, 2018

ANTHONY L. EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
SEAN DALY and ERIN DIEHL, Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          JEREMIAH C. LYNCH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss Request for Declaratory Relief and to Stay Proceedings based upon the doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), as extended in Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965 (9th Cir. 2004). Defendants argue these cases require dismissal of Plaintiff Anthony Evans's request for declaratory relief and a stay of his action for damages while parallel state court proceedings are pending. (Doc. 16.) Evans did not respond to the motion. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion should be granted.

         In light of this recommendation, Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery and Vacate the Scheduling Order will be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Evans was sentenced to 40 years with 24 years suspended on July 26, 2001 in State v. Anthony Evans, Cause No. DC-00-097B. (Judgment, Doc. 17-1.) He discharged the prison portion of his sentence on July 10, 2015, and moved to Bozeman. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 3-4 ¶¶ 1-2; Answer, Doc. 12 at 2 ¶¶ 1-2.)

         On July 26, 2016, Evans's supervising probation officer, Sean Daly, accompanied by Erin Diehl, conducted a home visit at Evans's residence. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 4 ¶ 3; Answer, Doc. 12 at 2 ¶ 3.) During that encounter, Daly reviewed some of the contents of Evans's cell phone, locating pornography search terms. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 4-5 ¶¶ 5-6; Answer, Doc. 12 at 3 ¶¶ 5-6.) Daly arrested Evans and transported him to the Gallatin County Detention Center. (Chronological Notes, Doc. 17-2 at 9; Complaint, Doc. 2 at 13 ¶¶ 1-2; Answer, Doc. 12 at 5 ¶¶ 1-2.) While there, Daly asked Evans about the pornography searches on his phone, prompting Evans to make admissions. (Chronological Notes, Doc. 17-2 at 9; Complaint, Doc. 2 at 13-15 ¶¶ 3, 5; Answer, Doc. 12 at 5-6 113, 5.)

         On July 27, 2016, Daly filed a report of violation with the state district court alleging, among other things, possession of pornography, possession of weapons and alcohol, lying to his probation officer, and having a smartphone without permission. (Report of Violation, Doc. 17-3.) On August 9, 2016, the State filed a petition to revoke Evans's suspended sentence. (Petition to Revoke, Doc. 17-4.) Evans then absconded and Daly filed an addendum to the report of violation containing the same allegations but adding additional violations related to his absconding. (Addendum to Report of Violation, Doc. 17-5.)

         Evans appeared in the Eleventh Judicial District Court on December 7, 2017, and denied the allegations in the report of violation. (Minute Entry 12/7/2017, Doc. 17-6.) Evans, through his attorney, subsequently filed two motions to strike the allegations that he possessed pornography, weapons, and alcohol; lied to his probation officer; and possessed a smartphone without permission arguing at least in part that the search of his cell phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. (Motion to Strike 3/9/2018, Doc. 17-7; Second Motion to Strike 4/4/2018, Doc. 17-9.) The district court judge denied both motions. (Minute Entry 3/21/2018, Doc. 17-8; Tr. 4/19/18 Hrg., Doc. 17-10 at 5:15-6:4.)

         At his probation revocation hearing, Evans admitted to the challenged violations but reserved his right to appeal the denial of his motions. (Doc. 17-10 at 9:6-14:7; 8:10-9:2.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the district court revoked Evans's 24-year suspended sentence and committed him to the prison for the entirety of that term. (Doc. 17-10 at 74:20-75:5; Order of Revocation, Judgment, & Sentence, Doc. 17-11.) On July 9, 2018, Evans filed a notice of appeal with the Montana Supreme Court appealing the May 9, 2018 Order of Revocation. (Notice of Appeal, Doc. 17-12.)

         II. Pending Allegations

         In his Complaint, Evans raised the following allegations: (1) whether Daly's July 26, 2016 search of his cell phone was done in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and his privacy rights under the United States Constitution. (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 3); and (2) whether Daly and Diehl failed to advise Evans of his Miranda rights prior to conducting an in-custody interview (Complaint, Doc. 2 at 13).

         III. Analysis

         Challenges to ongoing criminal proceedings are barred by the Younger doctrine. 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). 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). Abstention also applies to federal civil actions requesting money damages where the ongoing state action is a criminal prosecution. Martinez, 125 F.3d at 781 (citing Mann v. Jett, 781 F.2d 1448 (9th Cir. 1986)).

         "Abstention in civil cases 'is appropriate only when the state proceedings: (1) are ongoing, (2) are quasi-criminal enforcement actions or involve a state's interest in enforcing the orders and judgments of its courts, (3) implicate an important state interest, and (4) allow litigants to raise federal challenges.'" Cook v. Harding,879 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2018)(quoting ReadyLink Healthcare, Inc. v. State Comp. Ins. Fund, 754 F.3d 754, 759 (9th Cir. 2014), Sprint Commc'ns., Inc. v. Jacobs,571 U.S. 69, 134 S.Ct. 584, 593-94, 187 L.Ed.2d 505 (2013)). Where all elements are met, the court must dismiss claims for equitable relief because it lacks the discretion to grant such relief, Beltran v. ...


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