Harrison v. Hyniman et al
ORDER dismissing with prejudice Harrison's complaint with respect to her claims against Defendants Hyniman and Jennings and dismissing without prejudice with respect to her claims against defendant Mills. The Court certifies that an in forma pauperis appeal taken from the order and judgment dismissing this action is considered frivolous and not in good faith. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 9/19/2016. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
NO: 3:16CV00228 JLH
BEN HYNIMAN et al
Plaintiff Ashleigh Harrison, who is currently held at the Poinsett County Detention Center,
filed a pro se complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 2), on August 31, 2016.
Defendants are Ben Hyniman, a banker, insurance owner, and farmer; Poinsett County Sheriff Larry
Mills; and attorney Larry Jennings.
Before docketing the complaint, or as soon thereafter as practicable, the Court must review
the complaint to identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint if it: (1) is frivolous or
malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2)
requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
In Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), the Court stated, “a plaintiff’s
obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment]to relief’ requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do....Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,” citing 5 C. Wright
& A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004). A complaint must
contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, not merely conceivable.
Twombly at 570. However, a pro se plaintiff's allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v.
North Dakota Dept. of Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-1044 (8th Cir.2002) (citations
Harrison asserts Hyniman forged deeds as part of a plan to donate her family land to the
Poinsett County Sheriff’s Department. According to the complaint, Jennings was “over” her
grandfather’s will, and was paid to ensure the land stayed in her family’s possession. Harrison also
asserts she is being held in the Poinsett County Detention Center on false charges.
Defendants Hyniman and Jennings
Harrison’s claims against Hyniman and Jennings must be dismissed because Hyniman and
Jennings are not state officials. To state a cognizable claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that the conduct of a defendant acting “under color of state law” deprived him
of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United States.
42 U.S.C. § 1983; Hamilton v. Schriro, 74 F.3d 1545, 1549 (8th Cir. 1996). Harrison has alleged
no facts to suggest either Hyniman or Jennings were acting under color of state law when they took
the actions alleged, and therefore has failed to state a claim for relief against them.
According to Harrison, she is being held in the detention center on false charges. To the
extent Harrison is pursuing a claim against Mills based on the allegedly false charges, her claims
must be dismissed.
In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-45 (1971), the Supreme Court held that federal courts
should abstain from interfering in ongoing state proceedings. The Court explained the rationale for
such abstention as follows:
[The concept of federalism] represent[s] . . . a system in which there is sensitivity to
the legitimate interests of both State and National Governments, and in which the
National Government, anxious though it may be to vindicate and protect federal
rights and federal interests, always endeavors to do so in ways that will not unduly
interfere with the legitimate activities of the States.
Id. at 44.
Accordingly, a federal court must abstain from entertaining constitutional claims when: (1)
there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding; (2) the state proceeding implicates important state
interests; and (3) there is an adequate opportunity in the state proceedings to raise the constitutional
challenges. Yamaha Motor Corp. v. Stroud, 179 F.3d 598, 602 (8th Cir. 1999); Yamaha Motor
Corp. v. Riney, 21 F.3d 793, 797 (8th Cir. 1994). If all three questions are answered affirmatively,
a federal court should abstain unless it detects “bad faith, harassment, or some other extraordinary
circumstance that would make abstention inappropriate.” Middlesex County Ethics Comm’n v.
Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 435 (1982).
It is evident from the complaint that Harrison is involved in an ongoing state judicial
proceeding in connection with charges which are the basis for her detention. Given that the state
matter is ongoing, and that the state clearly has an important interest in its criminal justice
procedures, the Court concludes it should abstain from entertaining Harrison’s constitutional claims.
There is no indication of bad faith, harassment, or any other extraordinary circumstance which
would make abstention inappropriate.
Having determined that abstention is appropriate, the Court must decide whether to dismiss
or to stay the case. When Younger abstention applies in case where only injunctive or equitable
relief is sought, it is clear that the appropriate disposition is dismissal of the federal action. Night
Clubs, Inc. v. City of Fort Smith, 163 F.3d 475, 481 (8th Cir. 1998). Because Harrison does not seek
damages, and requests only injunctive or equitable relief, her complaint must be dismissed.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT:
Harrison’s complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE with respect to her claims
against defendants Hyniman and Jennings, and DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE with respect
to her claims against defendant Mills.
The Court certifies that an in forma pauperis appeal taken from the order and
judgment dismissing this action is considered frivolous and not in good faith.
DATED this 19th day of September, 2016.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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