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State courts are fully competent to adjudicate constitutional claims, and therefore a federal court should, in all but the most exceptional circumstances, refuse to interfere with an ongoing state criminal proceeding. In the absence of such a proceeding, however, a plaintiff may challenge the constitutionality of the state statute in federal court, assuming he can satisfy the requirements for federal jurisdiction.
Appellee adult businesses, M & L, Salem, and Tim-Rob filed a complaint in district court sought a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and declaratory relief against appellant Doran, a law enforcement official, claiming that an ordinance proscribing topless dancing which the appellee had provided as entertainment in their bars, violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. However, M& L continued topless dancing, while the other two stopped pending consideration of their request for declaratory relief. Appellant filed criminal charges in state court against the first adult business. Thereafter, the district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance against the appellees pending the final determination of this action. The court of appeals affirmed.
Were the appellees adult businesses complain of constitutional contentions should be resolved in a state court?
The court ruled that after having violated the ordinance rather than awaiting the normal development of its federal lawsuit, appellee first adult business could not be heard to complain that its constitutional contentions were being resolved in a state court. Since, its prayers for both injunctive and declaratory relief were subject to the “Younger doctrine.” On the other hand, the other two adult businesses were entitled to injunctive relief because preliminary injunctions were not subject to the “Younger doctrine.” And, in the absence of a state proceeding against them, they could challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance in federal court. The two adult businesses established that they would suffer a substantial loss of business if the injunction were not granted, so it was upheld.