MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The respondents are 19 named individuals who commenced this civil rights action, individually and on behalf of a class of citizens of the city of Cairo, Illinois, against the State's Attorney for Alexander County, Illinois, his investigator, the Police Commissioner of Cairo, and the petitioners here, Michael O'Shea and Dorothy Spomer, Magistrate and Associate Judge of the Alexander County Circuit Court, respectively, alleging that they have intentionally engaged in, and are continuing to engage in, various patterns and practices of conduct in the administration of the criminal justice system in Alexander County that deprive respondents of rights secured by the First, Sixth, Eighth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and by 42 U. S. C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985. The complaint, as amended, alleges that since the early 1960's, black citizens of Cairo, together with a small number of white persons on their behalf, have been actively, peaceably and lawfully seeking equality of opportunity and treatment in employment, housing, education, participation
The individual respondents are 17 black and two white residents of Cairo. The class, or classes, which they purport to represent are alleged to include "all those who, on account of their race or creed and because of their exercise of First Amendment rights, have [been] in the past and continue to be subjected to the unconstitutional and selectively discriminatory enforcement and administration of criminal justice in Alexander County," as well as financially poor persons "who, on account of their poverty, are unable to afford bail, or are unable to afford counsel and jury trials in city ordinance violation cases." The complaint charges the State's Attorney, his investigator, and the Police Commissioner with a pattern and practice of intentional racial discrimination in the performance of their duties, by which the state criminal laws and procedures are deliberately applied more harshly to black residents of Cairo and inadequately applied to white persons who victimize blacks, to deter respondents from engaging in their lawful attempt to achieve equality. Specific supporting examples of such conduct involving some of the individual respondents are detailed in the complaint as to the State's Attorney and his investigator.
With respect to the petitioners, the county magistrate and judge, a continuing pattern and practice of conduct, under color of law, is alleged to have denied and to continue to deny the constitutional rights of respondents and members of their class in three respects:
The District Court dismissed the case for want of jurisdiction to issue the injunctive relief prayed for and on the ground that petitioners were immune from suit with respect to acts done in the course of their judicial duties. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967), on which the District Court relied, did not forbid the issuance of injunctions against judicial officers if it is alleged and proved that they have knowingly engaged in conduct intended to discriminate against a cognizable class of persons on the basis of race. Absent sufficient remedy at law, the Court of Appeals ruled that in the event respondents proved their allegations, the District Court should proceed to fashion appropriate injunctive relief
We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals. The complaint failed to satisfy the threshold requirement imposed by Art. III of the Constitution that those who seek to invoke the power of federal courts must allege an actual case or controversy. Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94-101 (1968); Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421-425 (1969) (opinion of MARSHALL, J.). Plaintiffs in the federal courts "must allege some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively illegal action before a federal court may assume jurisdiction." Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617 (1973).
In the complaint that began this action, the sole allegations of injury are that petitioners "have engaged in and continue to engage in, a pattern and practice of conduct . . . all of which has deprived and continues to deprive plaintiffs and members of their class of their" constitutional rights and, again, that petitioners "have denied and continue to deny to plaintiffs and members of their class their constitutional rights" by illegal bondsetting, sentencing, and jury-fee practices. None of the named plaintiffs is identified as himself having suffered any injury in the manner specified. In sharp contrast to the claim for relief against the State's Attorney where specific instances of misconduct with respect to particular individuals are alleged, the claim against petitioners alleges injury in only the most general terms. At oral argument, respondents' counsel stated that some of the named plaintiffs-respondents, who could be identified by name if necessary, had actually been defendants in proceedings before petitioners and had suffered from the alleged unconstitutional practices.
Of course, past wrongs are evidence bearing on whether there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury. But here the prospect of future injury rests on the likelihood that respondents will again be arrested for and charged with violations of the criminal law and will again be subjected to bond proceedings, trial, or sentencing before petitioners. Important to this assessment is the absence of allegations that any relevant criminal statute of the State of Illinois is unconstitutional on its face or as applied or that respondents have been or will be improperly charged with violating criminal law. If the statutes that might possibly be enforced against respondents are valid laws, and if charges under these statutes are not improvidently made or pressed, the question becomes whether any perceived threat to respondents is sufficiently real and immediate to show an existing controversy simply because they anticipate violating lawful criminal statutes and being tried for their offenses, in which event they may appear before petitioners and, if they do, will be affected by the
As in Golden v. Zwickler, we doubt that there is " `sufficient immediacy and reality' " to respondents' allegations of future injury to warrant invocation of the jurisdiction of the District Court. There, "it was wholly conjectural that another occasion might arise when Zwickler might be prosecuted for distributing the handbills referred to in the complaint." 394 U. S., at 109. Here we can only speculate whether respondents will be arrested, either again or for the first time, for violating a municipal ordinance or a state statute, particularly in the absence of any allegations that unconstitutional criminal statutes are being employed to deter constitutionally protected conduct. Cf. Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 101-102
In Boyle v. Landry, 401 U.S. 77, 81 (1971), the Court ordered a complaint dismissed for insufficiency of its allegations where there was no basis for inferring "that any one or more of the citizens who brought this suit is in any jeopardy of suffering irreparable injury if the State is left free to prosecute under the intimidation statute in the normal manner." The Court expressed the view that "the normal course of state criminal prosecutions cannot be disrupted or blocked on the basis of charges which in the last analysis amount to nothing more than speculation about the future." Ibid. A similar element of uncertainty about whether the alleged injury will be likely to occur is present in this case, and a similar reluctance to interfere with the normal operation of state administration of its criminal laws in the manner sought by respondents strengthens the conclusion
The foregoing considerations obviously shade into those determining whether the complaint states a sound basis for equitable relief; and even if we were inclined to consider the complaint as presenting an existing case or controversy, we would firmly disagree with the Court of Appeals that an adequate basis for equitable relief against petitioners had been stated. The Court has recently reaffirmed the "basic doctrine of equity jurisprudence that courts of equity should not act, and particularly should not act to restrain a criminal prosecution, when the moving party has an adequate remedy at law and will not suffer irreparable injury if denied equitable relief." Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971). Additionally, recognition of the need for a proper balance in the concurrent operation of federal and state courts counsels restraint against the issuance of injunctions against state officers engaged in the administration of the State's criminal laws in the absence of a showing of irreparable injury which is " `both great and immediate.' " Id., at 46. See, e. g., Fenner v. Boykin, 271 U.S. 240 (1926); Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157 (1943). In holding that 42 U. S. C. § 1983 is an Act of Congress that falls within the "expressly authorized" exception to the absolute bar against federal injunctions directed at state court proceedings provided by 28 U. S. C. § 2283, the Court expressly observed that it did not intend to "question or qualify in any way the principles of equity, comity, and federalism that must restrain a federal court when asked to enjoin a state court proceeding." Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 243 (1972). Those principles preclude equitable intervention in the circumstances present here.
A federal court should not intervene to establish the basis for future intervention that would be so intrusive and unworkable. In concluding that injunctive relief would be available in this case because it would not interfere with prosecutions to be commenced under challenged statutes, the Court of Appeals misconceived the underlying basis for withholding federal equitable relief when the normal course of criminal proceedings in the state courts would otherwise be disrupted. The objection is to unwarranted anticipatory interference in the state criminal process by means of continuous or piecemeal interruptions of the state proceedings by litigation in the federal courts; the object is to sustain "[t]he special delicacy of the adjustment to be preserved between federal equitable power and State administration of its own law." Stefanelli v. Minard, 342 U.S. 117,
Respondents have failed, moreover, to establish the basic requisites of the issuance of equitable relief in these circumstances—the likelihood of substantial and immediate irreparable injury, and the inadequacy of remedies at law. We have already canvassed the necessarily conjectural nature of the threatened injury to which respondents are allegedly subjected. And if any of the respondents are ever prosecuted and face trial, or if they are illegally sentenced, there are available state and federal procedures which could provide relief from the wrongful conduct alleged. Open to a victim of the discriminatory practices asserted under state law are the right to a substitution of judge or a change of venue, Ill. Rev. Stat., c. 38, §§ 114-5, 114-6 (1971), review on direct appeal or on postconviction collateral review, and the opportunity to demonstrate that the conduct of these judicial officers is so prejudicial to the administration of justice that available disciplinary proceedings, including the possibility of suspension or removal, are warranted. Ill. Const., Art. VI, § 15 (e). In appropriate circumstances, moreover, federal habeas relief would undoubtedly be available.
Whatever may be the case with respect to civil liability generally, see Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967), or civil liability for willful corruption, see Alzua v. Johnson, 231 U.S. 106, 110-111 (1913); Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347, 350, 354 (1872), we have never held that the performance of the duties of judicial, legislative, or executive officers, requires or contemplates the immunization of otherwise criminal deprivations of constitutional rights. Cf. Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339 (1880). On the contrary, the judicially fashioned doctrine of official immunity does not reach "so far as to immunize criminal conduct proscribed by an Act of Congress . . . ." Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606, 627 (1972).
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring in part.
I join the judgment of the Court and Part I of the Court's opinion which holds that the complaint "failed to satisfy the threshold requirement imposed by Art. III of the Constitution that those who seek to invoke the power of federal courts must allege an actual case or controversy." Ante, at 493.
When we arrive at that conclusion, it follows, it seems to me, that we are precluded from considering any other issue presented for review. Thus, the Court's additional discussion of the question whether a case for equitable relief was stated amounts to an advisory opinion that we are powerless to render. Hayburn's Case, 2 Dall. 409 (1792); United States v. Evans, 213 U.S. 297, 301 (1909); Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 360-361 (1911); Stearns v. Wood, 236 U.S. 75 (1915); Coffman v. Breeze Corps., 323 U.S. 316 (1945); United Public Workers v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75 (1947); Paschall v. Christie-Stewart, Inc., ante, at 101-102.
Mr. Justice Frankfurter stated the applicable principle in speaking for the Court in International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union v. Boyd, 347 U.S. 222, 223 (1954):
I would adhere to that principle. Either there is no case or controversy and that is the end of the matter, or there is a case or controversy and the Court may go on to a decision on the merits. In my view, the Court may not have it both ways.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concur, dissenting.
The respondents in this case are black and indigent citizens of Cairo, Illinois. Suing in federal court, they alleged that since the early 1960's black citizens of Cairo have been actively seeking equal opportunity and treatment in employment, housing, education, and ordinary day-to-day relations with the white citizens and officials of Cairo. In this quest, blacks have engaged in a boycott of local merchants deemed to have engaged in racial discrimination.
Alleging that this quest for equality has generated substantial antagonism from white governmental officials, respondents brought a class action under 42 U. S. C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985, seeking to represent citizens of Cairo who have been subjected in the past, and continue to be subjected, to the allegedly discriminatory and unconstitutional administration of criminal justice in Alexander County, Illinois, which includes Cairo. Among their other claims, respondents alleged that petitioners Michael O'Shea and Dorothy Spomer, both now judges in Alexander County,
An injunction was sought against this conduct. The District Court referred obliquely to want of jurisdiction, but, focusing on the fact that the complaint sought review of matters of judicial discretion, concluded that the action should be dismissed because judges and magistrates are immune from liability for acts done in performance of their duties. In reversing and remanding the case to the District Court, the Court of Appeals held that the action was not barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity. The Court of Appeals also held that the complaint contained sufficiently specific factual averments to satisfy Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8 (a). 468 F.2d 389.
This Court now decides for the first time in the course of this litigation that the complaint is deficient because it does not state a "case or controversy" within the meaning of Art. III.
The fact that no party has raised that issue in this closely contested case is no barrier, of course, to our consideration of it. But the reasoning and result reached by the Court are to say the least a tour de force and quite inconsistent with the allegations in the complaint, which are within constitutional requirements.
But I do not press the point, for the amended complaint is sufficiently specific to warrant a trial.
As respects O'Shea, the Magistrate, and Spomer, the Circuit Judge, the charges concerning named plaintiffs are as follows:
(1) that excessive bonds have been required in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because petitioners follow an unofficial bond schedule without regard to the facts of individual cases;
(3) that, where the named plaintiffs have been fined and at times sentenced to jail and cannot pay the fines, these judges have required them to pay for a trial by jury.
Moreover, the amended complaint alleges that O'Shea and Spomer "continue to engage in a pattern and practice" which "has deprived and continues to deprive" the named plaintiffs and members of their class of their constitutional rights. Moreover, it is alleged that since early in the 1960's the blacks of Cairo and some whites have been actively and peaceably seeking to end discrimination in Cairo and that those activities have generated and continue to generate tension and antagonism in Cairo.
It is also alleged that the police commissioner in Cairo "has denied and continues to deny to plaintiffs and members of their class their constitutional rights in the following ways:
These allegations support the likelihood that the named plaintiffs as well as members of their class will be arrested in the future and therefore will be brought before O'Shea and Spomer and be subjected to the alleged discriminatory practices in the administration of justice.
These allegations of past and continuing wrongdoings clearly state a case or controversy in the Art. III sense. They are as specific as those alleged in Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, and in Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, where we held that cases or controversies were presented.
Specificity of proof may not be forthcoming; but specificity of charges is clear.
What has been alleged here is not only wrongs done to named plaintiffs, but a recurring pattern of wrongs which establishes, if proved, that the legal regime under control of the whites in Cairo, Illinois, is used over and over again to keep the blacks from exercising First Amendment rights, to discriminate against them, to keep from the blacks the protection of the law in their lawful activities, to weight the scales of justice repeatedly on the side of white prejudices and against black protests, fears, and suffering. This is a more pervasive scheme for suppression of blacks and their civil rights than I have ever seen. It may not survive a trial. But if this case does not present a "case or controversy" involving the named plaintiffs, then that concept has been so watered down as to be no longer recognizable. This will please the white superstructure, but it does violence to the conception of evenhanded justice envisioned by the Constitution.
Suits under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 are exceptions to the absolute bar against federal injunctions directed at state
To repeat, in the instant case, there are allegations that state lower-court judges are willfully discriminating in their sentencing determinations and are imposing excessive bail. The effects of such results may well persist quite aside from the disposition of the underlying substantive charges at trial or on appeal, and may well be functionally unreviewable. The Court of Appeals observed, 468 F. 2d, at 408, that the individual defendant in a criminal case will find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain review of a sentence within statutory limits unless it is manifestly harsh or unjustified, citing the Illinois rule that "imposition of sentence is a matter of judicial discretion, and in the absence of a manifest abuse of that discretion it will not be altered
Furthermore, the respondents do not primarily allege individual instances of excessively harsh treatment, on an absolute scale, of black and indigent defendants, but rather a pattern of discriminatory treatment, especially in favor of prosperous white defendants. Such allegations would amount to denials of equal protection even if blacks and poor whites were not subject to sentences which were so excessive that they constituted manifest abuses of discretion, as long as wealthy whites were at the same time receiving relatively lenient sentences from the same judges. A single instance of sentencing by itself might not strike the conscience of a reviewing court, but when coupled with a pattern of discriminatory treatment could well justify the equitable intervention of a federal court. A class suit where evidence could be developed showing a pattern of discriminatory bail and sentencing decisions by the petitioners would be the one appropriate vehicle in which these claims could be developed.
Whether respondents could come forward with such evidence, and whether the Federal District Court in the exercise of its equitable discretion could frame suitable relief are, of course, questions which can be answered only after a trial on the merits. The resolution of those issues would then be properly reviewable. But the principles of abstention and comity should not bar this suit ab initio.
Because I believe that the complaint is sufficient to state an actual "case or controversy," I would reach the further question, on the merits, whether equitable relief may be warranted in the circumstances of this case. I agree, nonetheless, with my Brother BLACKMUN that the
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF DOUGLAS, J., DISSENTING
There are seven statutes in addition to 42 U. S. C. § 1983 which the Court has recognized constitute "express exceptions" to the policy of nonintervention in state proceedings enunciated by the anti-injunction statute: (1) The Bankruptcy Act, 11 U. S. C. § 1 et seq., specifically recognized by Congress as an exception to 28 U. S. C. § 2283. See Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 233. (2) The Interpleader Act of 1936, 28 U. S. C. § 2361, allowing federal courts to restrain prosecution of state court suits involving property involved in federal interpleader actions. See Treinies v. Sunshine Mining Co., 308 U.S. 66, 74. (3) The 1851 Act limiting the liability of shipowners by providing for the cessation of proceedings against them when they have made a deposit equal to the value of their ships with a federal court, 46 U. S. C. § 185. See Providence & N. Y. S. S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co., 109 U.S. 578, 599-600. (4) The Frazier-Lemke Farm Mortgage Act, 11 U. S. C. § 203 (s) (2) (1958 ed.). See Kalb v. Feuerstein, 308 U.S. 433. (5) The Federal Habeas Corpus Act, 28 U. S. C. § 2251, permitting a stay of state court proceedings when a federal habeas action is pending. See Ex Parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 248-249. (6) Section 205 (a) of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, 56 Stat. 33. See Porter v. Dicken, 328 U.S. 252, 255. (7) Legislation providing for the removal of litigation to federal courts and the simultaneous cessation of state court proceedings, 28 U. S. C. § 1446 (e). See French v. Hay, 22 Wall. 250.
"A court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments."