CYNTHIA HOLCOMB HALL, Circuit Judge:
Defendants-appellants, the State of California and the United Farm Workers of America, appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs-appellees Guadalupe Beltran, et al. Appellees brought this action seeking, in part, a declaratory judgment that section 1153(c) of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act ("ALRA"), Cal.Lab.Code § 1153(c) (West 1988), is an unconstitutional abridgement of their first amendment rights of speech and association.
The district court granted appellees' motion for summary judgment, holding that section 1153(c) was unconstitutional on its face. In so holding, the district court refused to abstain under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and ruled that principles of res judicata did not bar appellees' constitutional claim.
This court granted permission to file this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).
The parties stipulated to the facts for purposes of summary judgment. Those facts relevant to our discussion of this appeal are as follows. In January 1979, the collective bargaining agreement expired between Sun Harvest, Inc., an agricultural employer within the meaning of the ALRA, and the United Farm Workers of America ("UFW"), the certified exclusive bargaining representative for the agricultural employees of Sun Harvest. The parties were unable to agree on a new contract. After a valid strike vote and pursuant to its constitution, the UFW commenced a lawful economic strike against Sun Harvest on January 15. At the time of the strike, all of the appellees, Guadalupe Beltran, Cecilia Salinas, George, Ronald and Michael Moses, and Severo Pasillas were employed with Sun Harvest. They also were members of the UFW.
On September 5, 1979, Sun Harvest and the UFW agreed upon a new collective bargaining agreement. The union security provisions of the agreement provided in part:
This term was nearly identical to the union security provision in the 1976 Sun Harvest/UFW agreement and was similar to language in the 1970 agreement.
In October and November 1979, each of the appellees was tried by UFW Ranch Committees for violating the UFW constitution during the strike. In particular, appellees were charged with "working without Union authorization during the period of an approved strike for a Ranch which is being struck by the Union" and "crossing an authorized Union picket line." Each was found guilty and expelled from membership in the UFW.
Each of the appellees, except Pasillas, appealed his expulsion to the UFW's National Executive Board which reduced the punishment to one- or two-year suspensions.
On February 14, 1980, appellees filed an action in the Superior Court for Imperial County, California seeking, in part, a declaration that California Labor Code section 1153(c) violated their first amendment rights of speech and association. Section 1153 provides in part:
Cal.Lab.Code § 1153 (West 1988).
The basis of appellees' constitutional claim, both in the Superior Court and here, is that section 1153(c) authorized agricultural employers and certified labor unions to negotiate union security agreements requiring members not merely to pay dues, but to remain in good standing, as determined by the union, to retain employment. By authorizing such a provision, appellees allege, the state unconstitutionally abridges their freedoms of speech and association. The Superior Court ruled that appellees' action was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board ("ALRB"). The court did not dismiss the complaint, however, but instead waited for a narrowing construction of section 1153(c).
Appellees George, Michael, and Ronald Moses, Beltran, and Salinas filed unfair labor practice charges with the ALRB. They charged, in part, that UFW and Sun Harvest violated the ALRA by entering into a collective bargaining agreement containing a "formal membership" clause, which allowed the discharge of appellees for reasons other than a failure to pay dues and fees used solely for purposes of collective bargaining. The General Counsel for the ALRB dismissed these charges, and the ALRB upheld the validity of section 1153(c) on the ground that the California legislature did not intend to make an unfair labor practice the discharge of appellees for reasons other than the failure to pay dues and fees. Id.
Appellee Pasillas also filed unfair labor practice charges in November 1979. Subsequently, he added additional charges in April 1980 to also challenge the "formal membership" clause. On July 8, 1980, the General Counsel for the ALRB dismissed these latter charges on the same grounds as the identical charges of the other appellees. On December 30, 1982, the ALRB upheld Pasillas' discharge based on his failure to exhaust internal union remedies afforded him by the UFW constitution. United Farm Workers of America (Pasillas), 8 ALRB No. 103 (December 30, 1982). The ALRB, although acknowledging it lacked statutory authority to rule on Pasillas' constitutional challenge to section 1153(c), nevertheless expressed its view that section 1153(c) was constitutional. Id.
Appellees sought review of the ALRB's decisions by the California Court of Appeal. On January 18, 1984, the court of appeals granted Pasillas' petition for writ of review and oral argument was held on February 15, 1984. On May 24, 1984, the court of appeal affirmed the ARLB's decision and rejected Pasillas' constitutional claim on the basis that there was no state action. Pasillas v. ALRB, 156 Cal.App.3d 312, 202 Cal.Rptr. 739 (1984). That court denied Pasillas' petition for rehearing. The California Supreme Court denied his petition for a hearing. The United States Supreme
The remaining appellees filed their opening briefs in support of their petition for a writ of review on February 8, 1984. The California Court of Appeal denied the petition without elaboration. Moses v. ALRB, 4 Civil No. 31129, D000959 (Cal.Ct.App. May 13, 1985). This case was not appealed further.
In the midst of these state proceedings, on April 15, 1983, appellees filed the instant action in federal court seeking, in part, a declaratory judgment on their constitutional claim. Appellants argued that the district court should abstain from interfering in ongoing state proceedings and should dismiss the action, relying in part on the Younger abstention doctrine. The district court refused to abstain and dismiss the complaint as required by Younger, and proceeded to grant summary judgment in favor of the appellees. Beltran v. California, 617 F.Supp. 948 (S.D.Cal.1985).
We review de novo the district court's refusal to abstain under Younger. Polykoff v. Collins, 816 F.2d 1326, 1332 (9th Cir.1987); Fresh Int'l Corp. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board, 805 F.2d 1353, 1356 & n. 2 (9th Cir.1987).
Younger abstention embodies "a strong federal policy against federal-court interference with pending state judicial proceedings, absent extraordinary circumstances." Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 2520, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982). In Fresh Int'l, 805 F.2d at 1357-58, we summarized the requirements of Younger abstention:
(citations omitted). This case meets each requirement. Consequently, we hold that the district court erred in refusing to abstain. We consider each criterion in turn.
It is undisputed that ALRB
Appellees do not attempt to defend the district court's rationale for refusing to abstain. The district court held that "[t]he termination of all pending litigation between the parties in other forums renders moot the arguments presented by the parties urging this court to abstain from decision." Beltran, 617 F.Supp. at 956. This reasoning is incorrect.
In Kitchens v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 1337, 1341 (9th Cir.1987), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 108 S.Ct. 1109, 99 L.Ed.2d 270 (1988), this court rejected a similar argument. In Kitchens, certain defendants argued that, because the state court proceedings had ended prior to the district court's decision to abstain, there were no "ongoing" state court proceedings from which to abstain. We opined:
Id. In other words, Younger abstention requires that the federal courts abstain when state court proceedings were ongoing at the time the federal action was filed. As noted above, this criteria is met.
Further, the state proceedings were ongoing when appellants first argued Younger abstention in the district court. Appellants were initially confused concerning the applicability of Younger abstention. Appellants first conceded that Younger was of limited applicability; however, appellants later expressly relied on Younger. At the very latest, appellants extensively argued in a hearing held on June 18, 1984, while the case was still in abeyance pending the Pasillas decision, that Younger abstention applied. The following day, the district court refused to abstain on Younger grounds and restored the case to its calendar. At that time, state court appellate proceedings were underway in both the Moses and Pasillas cases. The Pasillas appellate proceedings ended with the California Court of Appeal denying Pasillas's petition for rehearing on June 20, 1984, the California Supreme Court denying Pasillas's petition for hearing on August 8, 1984, and the United States Supreme Court dismissing Pasillas's appeal for want of jurisdiction on January 14, 1985. The Moses petition for review in the state court of appeal was denied on May 13, 1985.
Although the state court proceedings were completed by the time the district court granted summary judgment, and an abstention order in this case may result simply in the appellees refiling their federal complaint, this outcome is required by Younger. Where Younger abstention is appropriate, a district court cannot refuse to abstain, retain jurisdiction over the action, and render a decision on the merits after the state proceedings have ended. To the contrary, Younger abstention requires dismissal of the federal action. See Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S. 564, 577, 93 S.Ct. 1689, 1697, 36 L.Ed.2d 488 (1973) ("Younger v. Harris contemplates the outright dismissal of the federal suit, and the presentation of all claims, both state and federal, to the state courts."); Fresh Int'l, 805 F.2d at 1356 ("When a case falls within the proscription of Younger, a district court must dismiss the federal action."); 17A C. Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 4252 at 202-03 & n. 17 (2d ed. 1988). The principles which underlie Younger abstention, notions of comity and respect for state functions, illuminate
The state proceedings implicated important state interests. In Fresh Int'l, this court held that "California's interest in protecting the collective bargaining process in the agricultural arena through enforcement of the ALRA is substantial within the meaning of Younger." 805 F.2d at 1360. Appellees contend only that, unlike Fresh Int'l, "the state proceedings at issue in this case do not involve the type of state enforcement action which justifies abstention." Brief for Appellees at 36.
Appellees' argument is unpersuasive. In Fresh Int'l, we wrote that "California's interest in ensuring peaceful collective bargaining and in protecting farm laborers' freedom of association, is entitled to the same respect and recognition as a state's interest in promoting fair employment practices, teacher discipline and police integrity [which have been held substantial within the meaning of Younger]." 805 F.2d at 1360. The state proceedings in this case fall within this ambit. Therefore, Fresh Int'l is controlling on this issue.
Appellees had an adequate opportunity to raise their constitutional claim. Even if Article III, section 3.5 of the California Constitution prohibited appellees from raising their federal claims before the ALRB, see Fresh Int'l, 805 F.2d at 1362 n. 14; Martori Bros., 781 F.2d at 1354 n. 9,
REVERSED and REMANDED with instructions to dismiss.
Subsequently, on January 12, 1983, appellees filed an at-issue memorandum seeking to set a trial date in the Superior Court. The UFW moved to strike the memorandum and the court granted its motion again on the basis that the matter was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the ALRB.
Moreover, to illustrate the conflict between the state and federal courts in this case, the state court of appeal expressly asked the federal court to abstain. At the request of the state court of appeal, counsel for the State of California drafted a letter to the district court that stated:
After receiving this letter and hearing argument, the district court did indeed abstain but did not dismiss the complaint. Instead, the district court held the case in abeyance until the state court of appeal issued its decision in Pasillas.
Cal. Const. art. III § 3.5.