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A.T. v. COUNTY OF COOK

July 2, 1985

A.T., R.B., K.A., INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK, ILLINOIS, AND JAMES M. JORDAN, SUPERINTENDENT, COOK COUNTY JUVENILE TEMPORARY DETENTION CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs in this civil rights class action seek to enjoin defendants' practice of indefinitely detaining alleged juvenile delinquents even though a state court judge has ordered that they be "released upon request" of a responsible adult. Plaintiffs sue under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging many constitutional violations. Defendants have moved to dismiss on three grounds: the doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity, the failure to state a claim against defendant Cook County ("the County") and the doctrine of abstention. For the following reasons, this motion is denied.

Facts

The complaint's allegations, which for purposes of this ruling we assume to be true, paint a sad picture of children regularly being detained from a few months to two years, even though a state court judge had ruled that they do not meet the statutory criteria for detention. A technicality explains this seemingly bizarre state of affairs. In each case a judge has ordered the juvenile "released upon request" of the child's parent or other responsible adult. But for one reason or another, no adult shows up, and the child languishes in jail.*fn1

  Illinois has an extensive statutory procedure for prosecution
and detention of juveniles. See generally Ill.Rev.Stat. ch 37,
¶ 701-1 et seq. (1983). Plaintiffs apparently have fallen
through a crack in that system. In general the "Juvenile Court
Act," id., frowns upon detention of children. See ¶ 701-2(1).
Children alleged to be delinquents*fn2 must be given a
preliminary hearing within thirty-six hours after being initially
detained in a detention home or jail. ¶ 703-5(1). At such a
hearing the court must determine whether there is probable cause
to believe that the child is delinquent as defined by ¶ 702-2. If
no probable cause does exist, detention is still not automatic,
and, in fact, is disfavored. To continue detention the Court must
find on the basis of evidence that:

   . . it is a matter of immediate and urgent
  necessity for the protection of the minor or of the
  person or property of another that the minor be
  detained or placed in a shelter care facility or that
  he is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court. .
  . .

¶ 703-6(2). Otherwise, the child must be released. For alleged delinquents, the Court must consider four factors in making the determination of "immediate and urgent necessity":

    (a) the nature and seriousness of the alleged
  offense; (b) the minor's record of delinquency
  offenses, including whether the minor has delinquency
  cases pending; (c) the minor's record of willful
  failure to appear following the issuance of a summons
  or warrant; and (d) the availability of non-custodial
  alternatives, including the presence of a parent,
  guardian or other responsible relative able and
  willing to provide supervision and care for the minor
  and to assure his compliance with a summons.

Id. If ordered temporarily detained, the child is entitled to an adjudicatory hearing within ten judicial days of the preliminary detention order; if not detained, the child is entitled to such a hearing within thirty days. ¶ 704-2. At such a hearing, the judge determines whether the child should be made a ward of the State. ¶ 704-8. If the court judges the child to be its ward, it must then conduct a "dispositional hearing" at which it considers various options, such as probation or conditional discharge, placement with an appropriate governmental agency or commitment to jail. See ¶¶ 705-1, 705-2(a).

The complaint alleges that each of the plaintiffs has been detained at the Audy Home. In each case, a preliminary hearing was held, in which a judge ruled that the child did not meet the specific statutory criteria for detention set forth in ¶ 703-6(2). The judge ordered each "released upon request" of his or her parents or some other adult, such as a relative or probation officer. Tragically, either no one shows up or someone shows up only several months later. As a result, the child remains confined in the Audy Home for months until an adult shows up or a hearing on the merits is held, whichever occurs first.*fn3 Plaintiffs allege that this has been happening frequently. They allege several constitutional violations. First, they charge that the continued detention amounts to punishment without trial in violation of due process. Similarly, the unique facts allegedly amount to a violation of the Eighth Amendment right to bail. Fourth Amendment and First Amendment rights are also allegedly violated by searches and other restrictive measures which flow from the fact of continued detention. Plaintiffs seek only declaratory and injunctive relief now.

Defendant James Jordan ("Jordan"), Superintendent of the Audy Home, claims that the doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity insulates him from the relief requested. He and the County also argue that the abstention doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 760, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and its progeny commands the Court to dismiss the suit. Finally, the County claims that the complaint alleges relief against it only under a theory of respondeat superior, and thus Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), bars relief against it.

Abstention

The Younger doctrine originally held that a federal court must, absent exceptional circumstances, dismiss a claim for injunctive relief against pending state criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court has since expanded the doctrine to include cases of a quasi-criminal nature involving states as parties and implicating important state interests. See Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 73 L.Ed.2d 116 (1982) (abstention from enjoining state bar disciplinary proceedings); Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S. 415, 99 S.Ct. 2371, 60 L.Ed.2d 994 (1979) (state emergency child abuse proceedings); Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 97 S.Ct. 1211, 51 L.Ed.2d 376 (1977) (state contempt proceedings); Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975) (public nuisance proceedings). Several policies underlie the doctrine*fn4 and must inform our application of it. One is the traditional doctrine of equity that a court should not issue an injunction when an adequate remedy at law exists and should not easily restrain a criminal prosecution. Huffman, 420 U.S. at 600-01, 95 S.Ct. at 1206, citing, Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 at 43, 91 S.Ct. 746 at 750, 27 L.Ed.2d 669. Thus, one focus of our inquiry is whether the ongoing state proceeding provides an adequate opportunity to raise federal constitutional issues. See, e.g., Middlesex County, 457 U.S. at 432, 102 S.Ct. at 2521. Another policy underlying Younger is the notion of "comity," that is, a "proper respect for state functions," such that in vindicating federal rights we must "always endeavor [] to do so in ways that will not unduly interfere with the legitimate activities of the State." Younger, 401 U.S. at 44, 91 S.Ct. at 750.

Three questions must be addressed. First, is there some ongoing state judicial proceeding? See Middlesex County, 457 U.S. at 432, 102 S.Ct. at 2521. This question is crucial because "`the relevant principles of equity, comity, and federalism "have little force in the absence of a pending state proceeding."'" Huffman, 420 U.S. at 602-03, 95 S.Ct. at 1207, quoting Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 462, 94 S.Ct. 1209, 1217, 39 L.Ed.2d 505 (1974). When no state proceeding is pending, federal intervention does not duplicate legal proceedings, disrupt the state system of justice or insult the state's abilities to enforce constitutional principles. Id. Second, if proceedings are pending, we must decide whether they implicate important state interests. Middlesex County, 457 U.S. at 432, 102 S.Ct. at 2521. Finally, we must see whether the state proceedings give an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges. Id.*fn5

The second question yields the easiest answer. The detention proceedings in issue are criminal in nature. And the state obviously has a strong interest in figuring out what to do about alleged delinquents and how to go about doing it.*fn6 Even so, we do not ...


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