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Wilson v. Morrissey

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

June 11, 2013

WILLIAM WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MITCHELL R. MORRISSEY, in his official capacity as District Attorney, Denver County, Colorado; PHILLIP GEIGLE, in his official capacity as Deputy District Attorney, Denver County, Colorado; JOHN RANEY, in his official capacity as Special Agent, HUD-OIG, Denver Office; KEVIN HYLAND, in his official capacity as Agent, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Defendants-Appellees.

(D.C. No. 1:12-CV-02999-LTB) (D. Colo.)

Before BRISCOE, Chief Judge, ANDERSON and TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judges.

ORDER AND JUDGMENT [*]

Mary Beck Briscoe Chief Judge.

After examining the briefs and appellate record, this panel has determined unanimously that oral argument would not materially assist in the determination of this appeal. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a)(2); 10th Cir. R. 34.1(G). The case is, therefore, submitted without oral argument.

William Wilson, proceeding pro se, [1] appeals the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

I

In September 2009, Wilson filed a § 1983 action against Aurora City and Arapahoe County officials alleging that these officials violated his constitutional rights when they searched his business and home during the course of an investigation, which allegedly began in 2002. The district court dismissed this action after finding several claims were inadequately pled and that the claims adequately pled were time barred because they fell outside the two-year limitations period. We affirmed the dismissal. Wilson v. City of Aurora, 455 F.App'x 792, 793 (10th Cir. 2011). In October 2009, Wilson filed a second § 1983 action against federal investigators and prosecutors, which he ultimately dismissed.

On November 14, 2012, William Wilson filed the present § 1983 action alleging that officials in the Denver County District Attorney's Office and various federal officials violated his constitutional rights by repeatedly and maliciously prosecuting him because he is Arab-American. Wilson filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction asking the district court to issue a temporary restraining order and enjoin the Denver County District Attorney's Office from prosecuting Wilson in an ongoing criminal case.[2] Wilson alleges that federal and state officials conspired against him to "persecute" him because he is Arab-American and in retaliation for filing civil complaints against state and federal officials.

As evidence of the federal and state authorities' persecution, Wilson asserts that federal investigators wrongfully provided information to Colorado state investigators, which resulted in the Denver County District Attorney's Office filing criminal charges against him. In response to these charges, Wilson filed the present suit and argued that an immediate injunction "preventing state officials from proceeding with this prosecution" was necessary because he faced the irreparable injury of defending himself against "multiple and simultaneous bad faith prosecutions." Am. Complaint, 1:12-cv-02999-LTB, Dkt. No. 20, at 18 (Dec. 18, 2012). Wilson also alleges that he will face irreparable injury if he is not returned to federal custody so that he can adequately pursue his federal appeal from one of his prior convictions.

II

"We review de novo a district court's decision to abstain based on Younger." Yellowbear v. Wyo. Attorney Gen., 525 F.3d 921, 923 (10th Cir. 2008). Under Younger abstention, federal courts should generally abstain from interfering with ongoing state criminal proceedings out of "respect [for] state functions and the independent operation of state legal systems." Phelps v. Hamilton, 122 F.3d 885, 889 (10th Cir. 1997). If a plaintiff shows that he faces irreparable injury that is great and immediate, however, intervention may be justified. Younger, 401 U.S. at 46.

In practice, abstention is warranted when three conditions are met: (1) there are ongoing state proceedings; (2) the state proceedings offer an adequate forum to hear the plaintiff's federal claims; and (3) the state proceedings implicate important state interests. Taylor v. Jaquez, 126 F.3d 1294, (10th Cir. 1997). A court will not abstain under Younger "in cases of proven harassment or prosecutions undertaken by state officials in bad faith without hope of obtaining a valid conviction and perhaps in other extraordinary circumstances where irreparable injury can be shown." Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 91 (1971).

When determining whether an action was taken in bad faith or to harass, we assess:

(1) whether it was frivolous or undertaken with no reasonably objective hope of success; (2) whether it was motivated by defendant's suspect class or in retaliation for the defendant's exercise of constitutional rights; and (3) whether it was conducted in such a way as to constitute harassment and an abuse of prosecutorial ...

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