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Law School Case Brief

Hicks v. Miranda - 422 U.S. 332, 95 S. Ct. 2281 (1975)


Where state criminal proceedings are begun against federal plaintiffs after the federal complaint is filed but before any proceedings of substance on the merits have taken place in the federal court, the principles of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), should apply in full force. 


Pursuant to four separate warrants, the police seized four copies of an allegedly obscene film (Deep Throat) from a theater. Misdemeanor charges were filed in a state municipal court against two theater employees. A California superior court later ordered the two employees and the theater to show cause why the film should not be declared obscene. Subsequently, the superior court declared the film obscene and ordered all copies that might be found at the theater seized. Rather than appealing from that order, the employees filed suit in a federal district court against the police officers and prosecuting attorneys involved in the case, seeking an injunction against enforcement of the California obscenity statute and for return of the seized copies of the film, and a judgment declaring the statute unconstitutional. The district court granted the injunction and the police officers and prosecuting attorneys immediately sought review by the Supreme Court of the United States.


Did the Supreme Court have jurisdiction to hear the case?




The Supreme Court concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the case because the injunctive order, issued by a federal court against state authorities, rested on federal constitutional grounds. The Court held that the district court committed error in reaching the merits of the case because the employees and owner could have fully litigated their claims before the state court. The Court held that absent a clear showing that the owner could not have sought the return of the property in the state proceedings and seen to it that the federal claims were presented there, the district court should have dismissed the case. The Court reversed the judgment.

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