Deakins v. Monaghan
484 U.S. 193 (1988)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Deakins v. Monaghan, 484 U.S. 193 (1988)

Deakins v. Monaghan

No. 86-890

Argued October 14, 1987

Decided January 12, 1988

484 U.S. 193

Syllabus

Upon application for a warrant to search one of the corporate respondents' premises for evidence of theft and other crimes that were the subject of an ongoing state grand jury investigation, a state court judge issued a warrant authorizing petitioner law enforcement officers to seize documents. Alleging that petitioners' execution of the warrant violated various of their federal constitutional rights and engendered certain pendent state law claims, respondent business entities and their owners filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Federal District Court seeking equitable relief, including the return of all documents seized, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees. The court granted petitioners' motion to dismiss on abstention grounds, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, ruling that Younger v. Harris,401 U. S. 37, and its progeny did not require the District Court to abstain from adjudicating respondents' equitable claims. As to respondents' claims for money damages and attorney's fees, the Court of Appeals applied its Circuit's rule that, even when abstaining entirely from the adjudication of equitable claims, a District Court is required to stay, rather than to dismiss, federal claims that are not cognizable in the state forum. Subsequently, the grand jury returned an indictment against three of the respondents, and the state trial court to which the indictment was assigned took jurisdiction over respondents' equitable claims for the return of the seized documents. Respondents represent here that they wish to withdraw such claims from their federal complaint and seek injunctive relief exclusively in the state proceedings.

Held:

1. In light of respondents' aforesaid representation to this Court, there is no longer a live controversy between the parties over whether a federal court can hear the equitable claims, and the abstention issue is moot in this regard. Accordingly, the portion of the Court of Appeals' judgment addressing those claims is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the claims with prejudice. This disposition will prevent a regeneration of the controversy by respondents' reassertion of the right to litigate in federal court their equitable claims arising out of the events surrounding the search warrant's execution. Pp. 484 U. S. 199-201.

Page 484 U. S. 194

2. Even if the Younger doctrine required abstention here, the District Court had no discretion to dismiss, rather than to stay, respondents' claims for monetary relief that cannot be redressed in the state proceeding. The Circuit rule requiring a stay in such circumstances is sound, since it allows the parallel state proceeding to go forward without interference from its federal sibling, while enforcing the federal courts' duty to exercise their jurisdiction. Petitioners' assertion that this case presents extraordinary circumstances sufficient to justify abdication of that duty is unpersuasive. First, the speculation that the District Court, if allowed to retain jurisdiction, would "hover" intrusively about the state proceeding is based on the groundless assumption that the District Court would not hold up its end of the comity bargain. Second, even if Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman,465 U. S. 89, would prevent the District Court from adjudicating respondents' state law claims as petitioners contend, this would not require the dismissal of respondents' federal damages claims, which are substantial, and sufficient to justify the District Court's retention of jurisdiction. Third, the dismissal of the federal complaint would not prevent piecemeal litigation, which is inevitable even without federal court involvement, since the state criminal proceeding can provide only equitable relief. Pp. 484 U. S. 201-204.

798 F.2d 632, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, STEVENS, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 484 U. S. 205.

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.