Certiorari Denied March 1, 1976. See 96 S.Ct. 1418.
The case was argued and submitted before the Court en banc.
LAY, Circuit Judge.
Twenty black prisoners, each convicted for various crimes in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, Missouri, appeal from the dismissal of their complaint alleging civil rights violations on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated. The defendants include five St. Louis Circuit Court Judges, the Circuit Attorney and the Public Defender for the City of St. Louis. Jurisdiction is allegedly based upon 42 U.S.C. § 2000a on the ground that the state court is a place of public accommodation. Plaintiffs' basic allegation is that the defendants have joined in a systematic racially discriminatory conspiracy to harass, intimidate, coerce, discriminate, and deny equal protection to black citizens by coercing pleas of guilty to criminal charges.
Plaintiffs seek both declaratory and injunctive relief. They ask the court to declare the policies and practices of the defendants unconstitutional and to enjoin the denial to "black persons, namely plaintiffs" of due process and equal protection of the law. Specifically plaintiffs seek to enjoin Judges Tillman, Bloom, Scott, Walsh and Corcoran from acting in violation of the Federal Constitution, and defendant Kitchen, as Public Defender, from accepting federal funds so long as his office provides representation
The district court, the Honorable H. Kenneth Wangelin presiding, dismissed the complaint without a hearing, holding that the state court is not a place of public accommodation under 42 U.S.C. § 2000a and that judicial immunity barred relief as to all defendants.
We find it unnecessary to decide whether jurisdiction can be based on 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a and 2000b since we view the pro se complaint as asserting jurisdiction based on the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 et seq. We have observed before:
Bramlet v. Wilson, 495 F.2d 714, 716 (8th Cir. 1974).
The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that each of the defendants enjoyed judicial or quasi-judicial immunity which barred declaratory and injunctive relief. This circuit has never decided whether those enjoying judicial immunity from damage suits are similarly immune from suits seeking equitable and injunctive relief. In O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 94 S.Ct. 669, 38 L.Ed.2d 674 (1974) the Supreme Court observed:
414 U.S. at 503, 94 S.Ct. at 679.
The Supreme Court has often reaffirmed the basic principle that equity will not act to restrain state criminal proceedings "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, 91 S.Ct. 746, 750, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). Neither the requisite irreparable harm nor the lack of an adequate remedy at law exists here. Plaintiffs do not challenge their present incarceration or the legality of their sentences, they challenge only possible future recurrences of the alleged illegal acts. The reason for this is clear. If plaintiffs sought relief from the fact or duration of present custody on the basis of an illegal conviction, they would have to begin by filing under the state post-conviction act, thereby exhausting their state remedies. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 488-89, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973).
Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the past denial of their rights is unconstitutional and an injunction precluding the circuit court judges, the prosecutor and the public defender from conspiring to deny and actually denying them due process and equal protection of the law. The irreparable injury is alleged to be certain specific acts which might take place in some future state criminal prosecution. However, this speculative allegation fails to satisfy the requirement of irreparable injury which must be both great and immediate if injunctive relief were not forthcoming. See O'Shea v. Littleton, supra 414 U.S. at 495-96, 94 S.Ct. 669.
Furthermore, Missouri law, and federal law as well provide adequate legal remedies of which plaintiffs may avail themselves. Whether the relief is directed to the past or to the future, criminal defendants in the City of St. Louis may (1) seek disqualification of the judge if it can be demonstrated that the judge has a personal interest or prejudice which would deny the defendant a fair and impartial trial, Mo.S.Ct.R. 30.12-30.16; cf. Tyler v. Swenson, 427 F.2d 412, 415-17 (8th Cir. 1970); (2) seek review of a conviction on direct appeal to the appropriate appellate court in Missouri, Mo.Ann.Stat. §§ 479.250, 547.070 (1953); (3) pursue post-conviction proceedings in the Missouri state courts under Mo.S.Ct.R. 27.26; and (4) upon exhaustion of state remedies seek federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
In mentioning these procedures, we in no way do violence to the doctrine that exhaustion of state remedies is not a prerequisite to relief under § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 477, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 183, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961). This doctrine, however, was never intended to modify the rule that
There exists a more fundamental reason why federal equitable relief is not available under the allegations of the complaint. Under our system of dual sovereignties state court judges are of course bound by the Federal Constitution. While some federal judicial review is required to assure uniformity in the application of the Bill of Rights,
The principle of comity is "an even more vital consideration" reinforcing the doctrine of restraining federal intervention on the principle of an inadequate equitable basis for relief. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). In Younger, "comity" was defined as:
401 U.S. at 44, 91 S.Ct. at 750.
Thus, a federal court should not intervene where such interference unduly inhibits the legitimate functioning of the individual state's judicial system. The cases are replete with admonitions against such interference and affirmances of this principle.
The ultimate relief sought here either by declaratory judgment or injunction would require "nothing less than an ongoing federal audit of state criminal proceedings". O'Shea v. Littleton, supra 414 U.S. at 500, 94 S.Ct. at 678. A federal court's declaration of racial discrimination in the state criminal system, rather than on a case by case basis, would require a federal evidentiary hearing for all black defendants detained pending trial in the City of St. Louis. Cf. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103, 95 S.Ct. 854, 43 L.Ed.2d 54 (1975).
414 U.S. at 501, 94 S.Ct. at 679.
The fact that plaintiffs have sought declaratory relief as well as injunctive relief makes little difference here. In Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S.Ct. 764, 27 L.Ed.2d 688 (1971), the Supreme Court held that the same principles which govern the propriety of granting federal injunctive relief in state criminal prosecutions, likewise govern the issuance of federal declaratory judgments in connection with such prosecutions. Although declaratory judgments are a statutory rather than a traditional equitable remedy, the Supreme Court has characterized the declaratory judgment as "essentially an equitable cause of action." Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. v. Huffman, 319 U.S. 293, 300, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 1074, 87 L.Ed. 1407 (1943). In Samuels v. Mackell, the Supreme Court noted:
401 U.S. at 72, 91 S.Ct. at 768.
In conclusion, this court cannot and will not indulge in the assumption that the circuit court of St. Louis and the appellate courts of Missouri are incapable of fairly adjudicating the federal issues placed before them. Intervention by this court at this point would violate established and sound principles of comity. As the Supreme Court observed in O'Shea:
414 U.S. at 500, 94 S.Ct. at 678, quoting Stefanelli v. Minard, 342 U.S. 117, 120, 72 S.Ct. 118, 96 L.Ed. 138 (1951).
The judgment of dismissal is affirmed.
HEANEY, Circuit Judge (concurring).
I concur in the majority opinion only because I recognize that our Court is bound by the five-judge majority opinion in O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 94 S.Ct. 669, 38 L.Ed.2d 674 (1974). Were I able to write on a clean slate, I would adopt the views expressed in the dissenting opinion in O'Shea.
They allege in addition that they have been subjected at times to racial slurs by various officials, particularly the City Attorney. It is further alleged that as part of this conspiracy the Public Defender has too many cases to provide them adequate legal representation.
Joining the defendants, as amicus curiae, was the Attorney General of the State of Missouri on behalf of the Judicial Conference of the State of Missouri, consisting of the judges and commissioners of the supreme court, the courts of appeals, the circuit judges and the judges of the St. Louis Court of Criminal Correction and judges of the courts of common pleas. The Missouri State Bar Association also joined in the appellees' brief as amicus curiae.
19 U.S. at 415-16 (emphasis added).