United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ANDREW U.D. STRAW, Plaintiff,
INDIANA SUPREME COURT, BRENDA RODEHEFFER, G. MICHAEL WITTE, LORETTA H. RUSH CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIANA, JAMES ROBERT AHLER Hearing Officer, LILIA G. JUDSON, Defendants.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court
Andrew Straw filed a Complaint in this Court against the
Indiana Supreme Court and various affiliates (collectively,
“Defendants”), alleging violations of 42
U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), and the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution. [Filing No. 1.] Mr.
Straw is a licensed attorney in Indiana and currently has
disciplinary proceedings pending against him before the
Indiana Supreme Court. [Filing No. 1 at 2;
Filing No. 1 at 27-28.] Mr. Straw has filed a Motion
for Preliminary Injunction, asking this Court “to stop
the Indiana Supreme Court from disciplining [him].”
[Filing No. 2 at 4; see also Filing No. 8
(Minute Entry from telephonic conference with assigned
Magistrate Judge where Mr. Straw “clarified that the
relief he is seeking by way of his motion for preliminary
injunction is an order preventing the Indiana Supreme Court
from taking action on a disciplinary matter pending against
Plaintiff”).] Defendants oppose the motion, [Filing
No. 23], and Mr. Straw has filed his reply in support of
his injunction request, [Filing No. 24; Filing
obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must show
that its case has ‘some likelihood of success on the
merits' and that it has ‘no adequate remedy at law
and will suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction
is denied.'” Stuller, Inc. v. Steak N Shake
Enters., Inc., 695 F.3d 676, 678 (7th Cir.
2012) (quoting Ezell v. City of Chi., 651 F.3d 684,
694 (7th Cir. 2011)). “If the moving party meets these
threshold requirements, the district court ‘must
consider the irreparable harm that the nonmoving party will
suffer if preliminary relief is granted, balancing such harm
against the irreparable harm the moving party will suffer if
relief is denied.'” Stuller, 695 F.3d at
678 (quoting Ty, Inc. v. Jones Grp., Inc., 237 F.3d
891, 895 (7th Cir. 2001)). “The district court must
also consider the public interest in granting or denying an
injunction.” Stuller, 695 F.3d at 678.
preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never
awarded as of right.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def.
Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008). “Preliminary
relief is properly sought only to avert irreparable harm to
the moving party.” Chicago United Indus., Ltd. v.
City of Chicago, 445 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2006).
Because the merits of the underlying litigation are not at
issue at this stage, “‘the reluctance to disturb
the status quo prior to trial on the merits is an expression
of judicial humility . . . [that] enables the court to stay
relatively neutral in the underlying legal
dispute.'” Id. at 945-46 (quoting O
Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal v.
Ashcroft, 389 F.3d 973, 1012 (10th Cir. 2004)).
Straw currently has disciplinary proceedings pending against
him before the Indiana Supreme Court for alleged violations
of Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 3.1. [Filing No.
1-22 at 1.] He asks this Court to issue a preliminary
injunction “to stop the Indiana Supreme Court from
disciplining [him].” [Filing No. 2 at 4.] Mr.
Straw does not cite or analyze the legal factors necessary
for obtaining an injunction. [Filing No. 2.] In
response, Defendants contend that Mr. Straw has not shown a
reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of his
injunction request because this Court must abstain from
exercising subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the
Younger abstention doctrine. [Filing No. 23 at
3-5 (citing Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971)).] In reply, Mr. Straw does not address the
Younger abstention doctrine. [Filing No.
24; Filing No. 26-1.]
Younger abstention doctrine “is an exception
to the general rule that federal courts must hear and decide
cases within their jurisdiction.” Mulholland v.
Marion Cty. Election Bd., 746 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir.
2014) (citing Younger, 401 U.S. at 37).
“[P]rinciples of equity, comity, and federalism”
are the foundation of the doctrine. SKS & Assocs.,
Inc. v. Dart, 619 F.3d 674, 677 (7th Cir. 2010).
Younger provides “that federal courts should
abstain from interfering with ongoing state judicial
proceedings that are judicial in nature, involve important
state interests, provide an adequate opportunity to raise
federal claims, and do not contain special circumstances that
would make abstention inappropriate.” Sykes v. Cook
Cty. Circuit Court Prob. Div., 837 F.3d 736, 740 (7th
Cir. 2016). Although Younger initially only applied
to criminal proceedings, it has been extended to civil
proceedings where there is “a federal suit filed by a
party that is the target of state court or administrative
proceedings in which the state's interests are so
important that exercise of federal judicial power over those
proceedings would disregard the comity between the states and
federal government.” SKS, 619 F.3d at 678. The
United States Supreme Court has extended Younger to
attorney discipline proceedings. Id.(citing
Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432-34 (1982)).
raised the Younger abstention doctrine in their
response brief, [Filing No. 23 at 3-5], but Mr.
Straw ignores it in both of his reply briefs, [Filing No.
24; Filing No. 26-1]. It is beyond dispute that
the disciplinary proceeding currently pending against Mr.
Straw before the Indiana Supreme Court is judicial in nature
and implicates important state interests. See
Middlesex, 457 U.S. at 434 (noting during the
Younger analysis that the state overseeing the
pending disciplinary action in that case “has an
extremely important interest in maintaining and assuring the
professional conduct of the attorneys it licenses”);
see also Appellate Case Search, Matter of Andrew
U.D. Straw, Case No. 98S00-1601-DI-00012, available at
https://public.courts.in.gov (last visited January 20,
2017). Mr. Straw does not dispute that he has had an adequate
opportunity to respond and raise federal claims in the
disciplinary proceeding.Mr. Straw also does not dispute that he
has an avenue for subsequent judicial review if the Indiana
Supreme Court actually rules against him in that proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 1257; see also Majors v.
Engelbrecht, 149 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 1998) (holding
that “[s]ubsequent judicial review is a sufficient
opportunity” to satisfy the requirement that the state
proceeding allows an adequate opportunity to raise
challenges). Finally, Mr. Straw does not argue that any
special circumstances are present that would make this
Court's abstention inappropriate, and the Court finds
that there are none.
these reasons, the Court agrees with Defendants that it must
deny Mr. Straw's preliminary injunction request because
Younger precludes his success on the merits to the
extent he is asking this Court to intervene in the
disciplinary proceedings pending against him before the
Indiana Supreme Court. But Younger also requires the
Court to go one step further and abstain from exercising
federal jurisdiction over Mr. Straw's claims regarding
those disciplinary proceedings. See Barichello
v. McDonald, 98 F.3d 948, 955 (7th Cir. 1996)
(“When confronted with circumstances that clearly
implicate Younger concerns, a federal court must
abstain.”). Because the Court will not exercise
jurisdiction over those claims, it must dismiss them.
Capitol Leasing Co. v. F.D.I.C., 999 F.2d 188, 191
(7th Cir. 1993) (“[A] court must dismiss the case
without ever reaching the merits if it concludes that it has
no jurisdiction.”); see also
Brooks-Albrechtsen v. Individual Members of the Indiana
State Bd. of Law Examiners, 2017 WL 131737, at *7 (S.D.
Ind. 2017) (dismissing claims without prejudice after
concluding that it should abstain pursuant to
Younger from interfering in an ongoing state
proceeding before the Indiana Board of Law Examiners).