United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
AMENDED ORDER ADDRESSING YOUNGER ABSTENTION
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
Tewell has filed an Amended Complaint against the Marion
County Department of Child Services, alleging that Defendants
violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution and other
federal laws by removing his minor children from his home.
(ECF No. 1.) Tewell seeks declaratory relief and
Court's Order entered April 11, 2019 treated
Younger abstention as equivalent to a lack of
subject matter jurisdiction (ECF No. 12), which was in error.
Younger concerns whether a court should exercise the
jurisdiction that it has over a party's claims.
See Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton
Christian Schs., Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 626 (1986);
(“Younger abstention . . . does not arise from
lack of jurisdiction . . . but from strong policies
counseling against the exercise of such jurisdiction where
particular kinds of state proceedings have already been
commenced”); Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v.
Branson, 212 F.3d 995, 997 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting
Dayton Christian Schools “rejected a
contention that district courts lack jurisdiction whenever
they should have abstained”). Younger
abstention “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 v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971)).
deciding whether Younger abstention is appropriate,
courts consider whether (1) there is “an ongoing state
judicial proceeding”; (2) “the proceedings
implicate important state interests”; and (3)
“there [is] an adequate opportunity in the state
proceedings to raise constitutional challenges.”
Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm'n v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). Younger
has two exceptions: (1) where “the state proceeding is
motivated by a desire to harass or is conducted in bad faith,
” Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 611
(1975), and (2) where the case involves extraordinary
circumstances that the plaintiff will suffer “great,
immediate, and irreparable” injury, Moore v.
Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 433 (1979).
seeks relief concerning the custody and placement of his
children. The original complaint shows that there are ongoing
state court Child in Need of Services (“CHINS”)
proceedings in the Marion Superior Court, Cause Number
49D09-1812-JC-003120, concerning the custody and placement of
Tewell's children. The proceedings implicate important
state interests in the health and welfare of children.
See, e.g., Millspaugh v. Wabash Cty. Dep't
of Pub. Welfare, 746 F.Supp. 832, 848 (N.D. Ind. 1990),
aff'd, 937 F.2d 1172 (7th Cir. 1991). Tewell has
an adequate opportunity in the CHINS proceedings to raise his
constitutional claims. See Brunken v.
Lance, 807 F.2d 1325, 1331 (7th Cir. 1986)
(“[S]tate courts are just as able to enforce federal
constitutional rights as federal courts.”) (quoting
Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm'n, 457 U.S. at 431);
see also Hatch v. Ind. Dep't of Child
Servs., Cause No. 1:17-CV-357-TLS, 2018 WL 1725883 (N.D.
Ind. April 9, 2018) (abstaining from exercising jurisdiction
in action alleging defendants took custody of plaintiff's
child in violation of his constitutional rights).
Younger abstention is appropriate and there is no
indication that either of its exceptions applies in this
case. Moreover, the Supreme Court held that Younger
abstention applies to claims for declaratory relief.
Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66 (1971).
Younger requires equitable arguments to be presented
to state courts, claims for monetary relief also are
stayed-but should not be dismissed outright if the claims for
damages cannot be redressed in the state proceeding.”
Nelson v. Murphy, 44 F.3d 497, 503 (7th Cir. 1995).
Therefore, the Court stays the claims for damages because
Plaintiff is not able to present a claim for damages in the
state court CHINS proceeding. See Rangel v.
Reynolds, No. 4:07-CV-20 AS, 2007 WL 1189356, at *3
(N.D. Ind. April 18, 2007).
the Court will abstain from interfering in the ongoing state
CHINS proceedings and DISMISSES Plaintiffs
claims for declaratory relief and STAYS
Plaintiffs claims for damages until after completion
of the state court CHINS proceeding. Plaintiff is
ORDERED to notify the Court within thirty
days of the completion of the state court CHINS proceedings.
Clerk is directed to correct the docket to
reflect that the Amended Complaint is brought by Plaintiff
Christopher Tewell and Valerie Kincy, Supervisor has been
added as a defendant.