raised as a defense in a state court action. Rather, this is a case in which Reid's claim arose solely as a defense to a state court order and it is attempting to "get around the limitations on the removal jurisdiction of the federal courts by asserting [its] defenses in a federal declaratory judgment action." 683 F.2d at 211.
In determining whether a declaratory judgment action arises under federal law, the focus should not be solely on the character of the pending or threatened state court action; rather, it should be more on whether the federal plaintiff is claiming an affirmative federal right. In General Electric federal question jurisdiction existed because the plaintiff was claiming an affirmative federal right under the commerce and supremacy clauses, 683 F.2d at 211, but Reid is not asserting such a right in this case. In determining whether a plaintiff is asserting an affirmative federal right, it is instructive to consider how his claim originally arose. In General Electric the plaintiffs were faced with an Illinois law which would have made their business dealings illegal. As in almost any declaratory judgment case involving a state law, they could have asserted their claims in a state enforcement proceeding, but they were also seeking to protect an affirmative right -- their right to ship and receive spent nuclear fuel. Id. at 208. In this case, by contrast, Reid's asserted claim under the EPPA arose only as a defense to the proceeding before the Illinois Human Rights Commission, or more specifically, as a defense to a discovery order entered in that proceeding. Reid is clearly acting defensively; were it not for the proceeding before the Commission, he would not be able to claim any right under the EPPA. The distinction between General Electric and our case, then, is that in General Electric the plaintiffs asserted a federal right which would exist independently of any state court enforcement proceeding, and in our case Reid's claim arises purely as a defense to proceedings before an administrative agency. Reid's complaint does not arise under federal law and this court thus does not have subject matter jurisdiction over this case.
Even if we were to find that we had subject matter over this case, we would abstain from exercising our jurisdiction under the principles first espoused in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971). In Younger the Supreme Court held that federal courts should not enjoin pending state criminal prosecution except in extraordinary circumstances. The Younger abstention doctrine was extended to state administrative proceedings in Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 91 L. Ed. 2d 512, 106 S. Ct. 2718 (1986).
In Dayton Christian Schools the Ohio Civil Rights Commission initiated a state administrative proceeding charging Dayton with sex discrimination. 477 U.S. at 624. Dayton then sued in federal district court, seeking an injunction against the state proceedings on the ground that any investigation of Dayton's hiring process or imposition of sanctions against it for discriminatory behavior would violate the First Amendment. Id. at 624-25. The Court held that Younger abstention was appropriate, and that abstention was generally proper in favor of "state administrative proceedings in which important state interests are vindicated, so long as in the course of those proceedings the federal plaintiff would have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his constitutional claim." Id. at 627.
Dayton Christian Schools is directly applicable here and would mandate abstention even if we had jurisdiction. We find only two plausible distinctions to draw between that case and our case, and neither supports our exercising jurisdiction over this suit. The first is that in this case not only would enforcement of the discovery order possibly subject Reid to liability for acts of discrimination against Moore, Reid claims that it would make it liable under the EPPA to third parties whose records it produced. Given the fact that Reid has an opportunity to make this latter argument in the state proceeding, we do not find that its potential exposure to two types of liability makes any difference. A second distinction is that in Dayton Christian Schools the federal plaintiff sought to enjoin the entire state proceeding, while here Reid seeks to enjoin only enforcement of the order compelling production of the polygraph records. This distinction also does not suggest that abstention is appropriate here. To issue an injunction here preventing the Commission from enforcing the discovery order would disrupt the proceedings virtually as much as enjoining them altogether, because Moore's proof depends in large part upon the examination records at issue.
As in Dayton Christian Schools, the usual prerequisites for abstention are also present here. Elimination of discrimination is clearly an important state interest. 477 U.S. at 628. In addition, Reid has a full and fair opportunity in the state administrative proceedings to litigate its federal claim. It had an opportunity to raise its federal claim before the Commission, and may raise its claim in Illinois Circuit Court if the Commission or Moore attempts to enforce the discovery order. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 68, § 8-111(B). Finally, we add that Reid's interest in coming to federal court is less than that of most plaintiffs; it is raising a federal statutory claim rather than claiming a violation of its constitutional rights. Cf. Dayton Christian Schools, 477 U.S. at 624-25. This court does not have jurisdiction over Reid's suit because it does not involve a federal question. Even if we had jurisdiction, however, we would abstain from exercising it under Younger and Dayton Christian Schools.
For the above reasons, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that plaintiff, John E. Reid and Associates, Inc.'s claim arises purely as a defense to proceedings before an administrative agency. Reid's complaint does not arise under federal law and this court thus does not have subject matter jurisdiction over this case as required by 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1331. Even if the court were to find that it had subject matter over this case, it would abstain from exercising its jurisdiction under the principles first espoused in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971) and in Ohio Civil Rights Comm'n v. Dayton Christian Schools, Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 91 L. Ed. 2d 512, 106 S. Ct. 2718 (1968). Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.