Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The plaintiffs-appellants, Texas Association of Business and William O. Hammond, filed suit in the Western District of Texas against the defendant-appellee Ronald Earl, the District Attorney for Travis County, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The suit arises out of a Travis County grand jury investigation of TAB for Texas Election Code violations during the 2002 state election cycle. TAB and Hammond seek an injunction against the enforcement of subpoenas issued by the grand jury, an order enjoining the entire grand jury investigation, and a judgment declaring that TAB’s conduct during the 2002 campaign season constitutes expression protected by the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free association. The district court declined to consider these requests, citing the abstention doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and its progeny. HOLDING:Affirmed. District Attorney Earle contends that because the appellants complied with the subpoena request, there is no live case or controversy and that this case should be dismissed as moot. The court agrees that the issue of compliance with the subpoenas’ order to hand over documents is now moot. There remains, however, a case and controversy over compliance with the parts of the subpoenas ordering live testimony before the grand jury, issuance of an injunction barring the entire grand jury investigation and the granting of declaratory relief. The court considers whether the Younger abstention doctrine applies. There is a three-prong test for determining whether the Younger abstention doctrine is applicable: 1. the dispute must involve an “ongoing state judicial proceeding;” 2. an important state interest in the subject matter of the proceeding must be implicated; and 3. the state proceedings must afford an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges. Wightman v. Tex. Supreme Ct., 84 F.3d 188 (5th Cir. 1996). The answer to the question of when there is exists an ongoing state proceeding may turn on a determination of which kinds of state proceedings are the relevant kind of proceeding for Younger purposes. The Supreme Court jurisprudence first recognized the need for abstention where criminal proceedings were ongoing. Younger’s applicability has been expanded to include certain kinds of civil and even administrative proceedings that are “judicial” in nature. A grand jury proceeding has both administrative functions, like investigating wrongdoing and making an initial determination of probable cause to file criminal charges, and judicial functions, wherein it may summon witnesses and compel the production of documents. However, both the administrative and judicial functions pertain directly to the enforcement of the state’s criminal laws. It is the criminal law arena where the federal courts’ deference to state courts has been most pronounced. Other proceedings have been found to be due the same deference because of analogy to, or nexus with, criminal proceedings. In Texas, grand jury proceedings bear a very close relationship with criminal trial proceedings. The grand jury is said to be “an arm of the court by which it is appointed.” Dallas County Dist. Attorney v. Doe, 969 S.W.2d 537 (Tex. App. 1998). The district court impanels the grand jury after testing the qualifications of its members, administers the jurors’ oath and instructs them as to their duties as grand jurors. The grand jury can seek advice from the district court on any matter it is considering. Any subpoena sought to be issued by the grand jury is issued by the district court and enforced by that court. Such subpoenas may also be challenged in the district court by means of a motion to quash the subpoena, thus providing a judicial forum in which to raise constitutional issues. The plaintiffs concede that the state of Texas’s interest in the enforcement of its election laws is an important interest. Texas law allows persons served with a grand jury subpoena to move to quash the subpoena. If dissatisfied with the district court’s ruling on the motion to quash, appellate review is available through mandamus. In addition, the constitutionality of any subpoena and the issue of whether TAB’s conduct was protected under the First Amendment can be litigated at any criminal trial arising from the grand jury investigation. The availability of the above opportunities to litigate constitutional claims in the state courts constitute an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges in the state proceedings such that this prong of the Younger test is satisfied and abstention is warranted. OPINION:Dennis, J.; DeMoss, Dennis and Prado, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.