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Dilworth v. City of Everett

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

November 17, 2014

CRAIG DILWORTH, et al., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF EVERETT, et al., Defendants.


MARSHA J. PECHMAN, Chief District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Stop the Bad Faith Prosecution and Threat of Prosecution, (Dkt. No. 2), and Defendants Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 8). Having considered the Parties' briefing and all related papers, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion, GRANTS Defendants' motion, and DISMISSES the case.


Plaintiffs filed this action seeking to enjoin a pending state criminal prosecution and for money damages resulting from the prosecution. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that the prosecution is being pursued in retaliation for Plaintiffs having sought redress against local officials and their associates. (Id.) The assault prosecution stems from an altercation between Plaintiffs and their neighbors on March 29, 2013, arising from a dispute over the boundary line between Plaintiffs' property and their neighbors' property. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that the prosecution of Plaintiff Rygg, and the threatened prosecution of Plaintiff Dilworth, is being undertaken in retaliation for Plaintiffs having sought to protect their constitutional rights in three earlier filed federal suits which named numerous state officials as defendants. (Id.)

Defendants argue that this case is another iteration of the dispute between neighbors which gave rise to the first three federal suits and resulted in Plaintiffs being found to be vexatious litigants (see Rygg v. Hulbert, Case No. 2:14-cv-237-MJP, Dkt. No. 113 (W.D. Wash. 2014)), is based on frivolous allegations, and should be dismissed because Plaintiffs have failed to state a plausible claim, because any claim would be barred by absolute and qualified immunity, and because this case calls for abstention and dismissal under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). (Dkt. No. 8.)


I. Legal Standards

A. Article III standing

To establish standing under the "case or controversy" requirement of Article III of the United States Constitution, a plaintiff must demonstrate a sufficient personal stake in the outcome to justify the invocation of judicial process. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204 (1962). Plaintiffs must allege three elements in order to establish Article III standing: (1) an injury in fact that is actual or imminent and concrete and particularized; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the alleged action of the defendant and not the result of an independent action by a third party; and (3) "it is likely, not merely speculative, that the alleged injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." Goodman v. HTC America, Inc., No. C11-1793MJP, 2012 WL 2412070, at *5 (W.D. Wash. June 26, 2012) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). The party invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden of establishing these elements. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561 (1992). However, in ruling on a motion to dismiss for want of standing, the "court[] must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and must construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975).

B. Dismissal for failure to state a claim

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Livid Holdings Ltd. v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 416 F.3d 940, 946 (9th Cir. 2005). The Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations of material fact as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Wyler Summit P'ship v. Turner Broad. Sys., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir. 1998).

Dismissal is appropriate where a complaint fails to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Aschcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). As a result, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. When the allegations in the complaint, "however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should... be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court." Id. at 558 (internal quotations marks omitted).

C. Younger v. Harris abstention

"In Younger, the Supreme Court first articulated the principle that a federal court should not interfere with an ongoing state criminal prosecution. The Court based its holding on two grounds: first, the general reluctance of equity courts to disrupt criminal proceedings, and second, notions of federal-state comity expressed as "Our Federalism."" Goldie's Bookstore, Inc. v. Superior Court of State of Cal., 739 F.2d 466, 469 (9th Cir. 1984). Younger abstention "is based on a strong policy of avoiding federal ...

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