Ellis v. Dyson
421 U.S. 426 (1975)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ellis v. Dyson, 421 U.S. 426 (1975)

Ellis v. Dyson

No. 73-130

Argued November 12, 1974

Decided May 19, 1975

421 U.S. 426

Syllabus

After being convicted and fined by the Municipal Court, on pleas of nolo contendere, for violating the Dallas loitering ordinance, petitioners, rather than seeking a trial de novo in County Court, and thus subjecting themselves to the possibility of a larger fine, brought action in Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance and seeking declaratory and other relief. The District Court dismissed the action, holding that federal declaratory and injunctive relief against future state criminal prosecutions was not available absent allegations of bad faith prosecution, harassment, or other unusual circumstances presenting a likelihood of irreparable injury to petitioners if the ordinance were enforced, a result felt to be mandated by the decision in Becker v. Thompson, 459 F.2d 919 (CA5), wherein it was held that the principles of Younger v. Harris,401 U. S. 37, applied not only where a state criminal prosecution was actually pending, but also where a prosecution was merely threatened. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Since the Becker decision was subsequently reversed in Steffel v. Thompson,415 U. S. 452, wherein it was held that federal declaratory relief is not precluded when a state prosecution based upon an assertedly unconstitutional state statute has been threatened, but is not pending, even if a showing of bad faith enforcement or other special circumstances has not been made, the Court of Appeals' judgment is reversed and the case is remanded to the District Court for reconsideration in light of Steffel as to whether there is a genuine threat of prosecution and as to the relationship between the past prosecution and the alleged threat of future prosecutions. Pp. 421 U. S. 433-434.

475 F.2d 1402, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 421 U. S. 435. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 421 U. S. 437. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, and in Part II of which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 421 U. S. 437.

Page 421 U. S. 427

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