David Danner v. Board of Professional Responsi, et al
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION File Name: 09a0346n.06 Filed: May 18, 2009 No. 08-6075 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
DAVID E. DANNER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE TENNESSEE SUPREME COURT; CHARLES A. HIGH, Defendants-Appellees.
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ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
Before: GUY, GILMAN, and COOK, Circuit Judges.
COOK, Circuit Judge. David Danner sued the Tennessee Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility ("the Board") and its former Disciplinary Counsel, Charles High, during a Board investigation of complaints filed by Danner's former clients. The district court dismissed his case without prejudice under the abstention doctrine articulated in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Danner appeals, and we affirm.
We review de novo a district court's order declining federal jurisdiction on grounds of Younger abstention. Fieger v. Thomas, 74 F.3d 740, 743 (6th Cir. 1996). The Younger doctrine
No. 08-6075 Danner v. Board of Professional Responsibility counsels federal courts to abstain from enjoining certain pending state court criminal proceedings, 401 U.S. at 44, but the doctrine also extends to ongoing administrative proceedings, such as state bar disciplinary processes, Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 43435 (1982). Federal courts properly invoke Younger abstention when a proceeding satisfies three criteria: "(1) the underlying proceedings constitute an ongoing state judicial proceeding; (2) the proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges in the course of the underlying proceeding." Danner v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility of the Tenn. Supreme Court, 277 F. App'x 575, 578 (6th Cir. 2008).
Here the Board proceedings are ongoing state judicial proceedings for purposes of applying Younger. The Board commenced its disciplinary process by authorizing a Petition for Discipline before Danner filed his state court claim. State bar disciplinary proceedings may be "judicial in nature." Middlesex, 457 U.S. at 43334. In fact, this Circuit holds that similar attorney disciplinary proceedings are "an adjudicative, rather than a legislative, function." Squire v. Coughlan, 469 F.3d 551, 556 (6th Cir. 2006); see also Danner, 277 F. App'x at 578; Fieger, 74 F.3d at 744.
As for the remaining Younger criteria, the regulation and discipline of attorneys is without a doubt an important state function. See Danner, 277 F. App'x at 579. Moreover, the disciplinary process provides for judicial review of allegations that the Board's findings violate constitutional provisions. Id. We therefore conclude that the proceedings satisfy all three of the Younger criteria and hold that the district court correctly abstained in deference to the state proceeding. In addition,
No. 08-6075 Danner v. Board of Professional Responsibility Danner failed to invoke any of the exceptions to Younger abstention--"bad faith, harassment, or flagrant unconstitutionality." Squire, 469 F.3d at 556 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
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