U.S. SUPREME COURT AND 6TH. CIRCUIT, HAVE PREVIOUSLY RULED THAT FEDERAL COURTS HAD JURISDICTION TO REVIEW BAR ASSOCIATION SANCTION ACTIONS WHICH VIOLATE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

By Stan Billlingsley, LawReader Senior Editor

There are currently two cases pending before the 6th. Circuit Court of Appeals in which Federal Judge Danny Reeves has ruled that the Federal Courts have no jurisdiction to review constitutional violations by the Kentucky Bar Association.

Those two cases on appeal are by John M. Berry Jr. and the ACLU and another case brought against the KBA by Eric Deters. Both cases assert that the Kentucky Bar Association violated their constitutional rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a number of cases that Federal Courts have jurisdiction over certain actions of the Bar Associations. This issue was settled in 1970 when the 6th. Circuit determined in the Dan Taylor appeal cited below.

The 6th. Circuit, in the Dan Taylor appeal, cited numerous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld the jurisdiction of federal courts to review state laws (and rules) which were unconstitutionally applied, or when they had a chilling effect on constitutional rights.

U.S. Supreme Court as quoted in Taylor case:

“We have not hesitated on direct review to strike down applications of constitutional statutes which we have found to be unconstitutionally applied to suppress protected freedoms. See Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559, 85 S.Ct. 476, 13 L.Ed.2d 487 (1965)

These citations appear to bring into question the rulings of Judge Danny Reeves in which he concluded that the Federal Courts have no jurisdiction to review the constitutionality of rules of the Kentucky Bar Association.

See: Taylor v. Kentucky State Bar Association, 424 F.2d 478 (6th Cir., 1970)

Having concluded its inquiry at this point, the District Court neglected to determine whether the Appellants properly invoked its jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (1964) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1964). It is to this point that we now turn our attention.

Restated, the essential allegations of the complaint, which must be accepted as true for the present purposes, are that the Kentucky State Bar Association,

[424 F.2d 481]

through its officers and agents acting under color of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, initiated a grievance proceeding against Taylor, in bad faith and without regard to success or failure, as an instrument for the suppression of First Amendment activities, to-wit: the advocacy of unpopular ideas. The issue raised is whether federal injunctive power may be invoked under these circumstances.

A general rule, inherent in American Federalism, is that courts of the United States will not interfere with a state’s enforcement of its local laws. Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 63 S.Ct. 877, 87 L.Ed. 1324 (1943). A fortiori should this rule apply where the dispute is of a peculiarly local character, as is this one. It has long been recognized that the states have “autonomous control over the conduct of their officers, among whom * * * lawyers are included,” Theard v. United States, 354 U.S. 278, 281, 77 S.Ct. 1274, 1276, 1 L.Ed.2d 1342 (1957), and that the state supreme courts and bar associations bear the primary and often painful responsibility of policing the profession. See Selling v. Radford, 243 U.S. 46, 37 S.Ct. 377, 61 L.Ed. 585 (1917). Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has instructed that where a plaintiff alleges “highly unusual and very limited circumstances,” that is:

“(1) a bad-faith use of the state\’s legal machinery with the purpose of inhibiting the exercise of the right of free speech (or, alternatively, the existence of a statute unconstitutional on its face affecting free speech) and (2) a probability of irreparable injury, which is established if there is a showing of a significant chilling effect on speech that cannot be avoided by state court adjudication.” Sheridan v. Garrison, 415 F.2d 699, 709 (5th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 396 U.S. 1040, 90 S.Ct. 685, 24 L.Ed.2d 685 (1970)

federal injunctive power under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1964) may be the appropriate remedy. Cameron v. Johnson, 390 U.S. 611, 88 S.Ct. 1335, 20 L.Ed.2d 182 (1968); Zwickler v. Koota, 389 U.S. 241, 88 S.Ct. 391, 19 L.Ed.2d 444 (1967); Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1116, 14 L.Ed.2d 22 (1965); Cox v. Louisiana, 348 F.2d 750 (5th Cir. 1965). It is not necessary that the state statute under which the proceedings were threatened or instituted be unconstitutional on its face. The Supreme Court has recently stated:

“We have not hesitated on direct review to strike down applications of constitutional statutes which we have found to be unconstitutionally applied to suppress protected freedoms. See Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559, 85 S.Ct. 476, 13 L.Ed.2d 487 (1965); Wright v. Georgia, 373 U.S. 284, 83 S.Ct. 1240, 10 L.Ed.2d 349; Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, 83 S.Ct. 680, 9 L.Ed.2d 697 (1963).” Cameron v. Johnson, supra, 390 U.S. at 620, 88 S.Ct. at 1340.

Nor is it technically necessary that the vehicle be a criminal prosecution by the state — disbarment proceedings having been described as “proceedings of a quasi-criminal nature,” In re Ruffalo, 39,0 U.S. 544, 88 S.Ct. 1222, 20 L.Ed. 2d 177 (1968) — where, under color of state law or court rule, the effect is to chill the exercise of First Amendment freedoms. See Eisenberg v. Boardman, 302 F.Supp. 1360, 1364 (W.D.Wis.1969).

The Bar Association urges that the Kentucky Court of Appeals is an indispensible party to this litigation, since only that Court has the power to disbar. See Clark v. State of Washington, 366 F.2d 678 (9th Cir. 1966). This argument overlooks the very nature of the Dombrowski remedy, which is directed at the chilling effect of bad-faith proceedings instituted under color of state law, rather than at the punishment alone.

“The chilling effect upon the exercise of First Amendment rights may derive from the fact of the prosecution, unaffected by the prospects of its success or failure.” Dombrowski v. Pfister, supra, 380 U.S. at 487, 85 S.Ct. at 1121.

[424 F.2d 482]

“Appellants\’ case that there are `special circumstances\’ establishing irreparable injury sufficient to justify federal intervention must therefore come down to the proposition that the statute was enforced against them, not because the Mississippi officials in good faith regarded the picketing as violating the statute, but in bad faith as harassing appellants\’ exercise of protected expression with no intention of pressing the charges or with no expectation of obtaining convictions, knowing that appellants\’ conduct did not violate the statute.” Cameron v. Johnson, supra, 390 U.S. at 619-620, 88 S.Ct. at 1340.

It is ordinarily the officials of the Bar Association, not the Justices of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, who set grievance proceedings in motion. Rule 3.160, Rules of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. In further support of this proposition, the Appellees argue that no remedy can be framed against the Bar Association unless the Court of Appeals is joined. We disagree. If the Appellants can bear the “heavy burden” of showing that the Bar Association proceedings were instituted deliberately to suppress First Amendment rights, and if the Appellants can overcome the strong presumption that the Bar Association’s motive was to enforce its canons of ethics, then the District Court can frame an appropriate remedy against the Bar Association by enjoining further grievance proceedings and preventing the Bar Association from presenting any recommendations to the Court of Appeals of Kentucky. The Appellees’ contention that the Court of Appeals is an indispensible party is rejected.

The Supreme Court has refused to decide whether 28 U.S.C. § 2283 (1964) is a bar to injunctive relief in meritorious Dombrowski cases where suit has already begun, Cameron v. Johnson, supra, 390 U.S. at 614, 88 S.Ct. 1335; Cameron v. Johnson, 381 U.S. 741, 85 S.Ct. 1751, 14 L.Ed.2d 715 (1965); Dombrowski v. Pfister, supra, 380 U.S. at 484, n. 2, 85 S.Ct. 1116; and the decisions of the lower courts are divided. Compare, e. g., Baines v. City of Danville, 337 F.2d 579 (4th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, Chase v. McCain, 381 U.S. 939, 85 S.Ct. 1772, 14 L.Ed.2d 702 (1965), with Sheridan v. Garrison, 415 F.2d 699 (5th Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 396 U.S. 1040, 90 S.Ct. 685, 24 L.Ed.2d 685 (1970). We need not reach that issue, however, since disbarment proceedings, prior to their adjudication in the court in which the power to disbar resides, are not “proceedings in a State court,” therefore the federal anti-injunction statute does not apply.

We find that the Appellants have properly invoked federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (1964) and have stated a claim for which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1964). The judgment of the District Court is therefore reversed in part, and this cause is remanded for an evidentiary hearing or such other proceeding as the District Court may direct.

 

 

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