United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
December 20, 2005.
LAURAINE SINGLETON, SIERRA RAIN DELANA SINGLETON, a minor, and SEVIER JOSEPH DELANO SINGLETON, a minor, Plaintiffs,
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MIHM, District Judge
This matter is now before the Court on Plaintiffs' Emergency
Motion for Temporary Restraining Order. For the reasons set forth
below, the Motion [#3] is DENIED.
According to the Complaint in this matter, Plaintiffs Sierra
and Sevier Singleton (the "Children") are minors who have been in
temporary state custody since November 21, 2003. Plaintiff
Lauraine Singleton ("Singleton") is the biological mother of the
Children. On December 16, 2005, Singleton received notice that
the Children's foster parents have petitioned the state court for
permission to take the Children out of the country for a
Christmas vacation; that petition is set for hearing in the state
court at 1:00 p.m. on December 20, 2005. Singleton has now filed
this Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order asking this
Court to enjoin the foster parents from taking the Children out
of the country for the proposed vacation. This Order follows. DISCUSSION
A temporary restraining order ("TRO") is an emergency remedy
issued to maintain the status quo until a hearing can be held on
an application for a preliminary injunction. Coca-Cola Co. v.
Alma-Leo U.S.A., Inc., 719 F.Supp. 725, 726 (N.D.Ill. 1989). The
purpose of a TRO, similar to that of a preliminary injunction, is
to minimize the hardship to the parties pending the ultimate
resolution of the suit. Faheem-El v. Klincar, 841 F.2d 712, 717
(7th Cir. 1988). The standards for a TRO and a preliminary
injunction are functionally identical. Bernina of America, Inc.
v. Fashion Fabrics International, 2001 WL 128164, at * 1
(N.D.Ill. Feb. 9, 2001).
Injunctive relief, including the entry of a TRO, is warranted
if the movant can make a threshold showing: (1) that the movant
has some likelihood of success on the merits of the underlying
litigation; (2) that no adequate remedy at law exists; and (3)
that the movant will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is
not granted. Ty, Inc. v. Jones Group, 237 F.3d 891, 895
(7th Cir. 2001). If these three conditions are met, then the
Court must balance the harm to the movant if the injunction is
not issued against the harm to the defendant if it is issued
improvidently and consider the interest of the public in whether
the injunction is to be granted or denied. Id.; see also,
Duct-O-Wire Co. v. U.S. Crane, Inc., 31 F.3d 506, 509 (7th
Cir. 1994); Storck USA, L.P. v. Farley Candy Co., 14 F.3d 311,
314-15 (7th Cir. 1994); Abbott Laboratories v. Mead Johnson
& Co., 971 F.2d 6, 11-12 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court then
sits as a court of equity, weighing all these factors and
employing a sliding-scale approach. Id. That is, the more
likely the plaintiff's chance of success on the merits, the less
the balance of harms need weigh in its favor." Id. Singleton effectively asks the Court to enter an injunction
precluding the foster parents of the Children from taking them
out of the country on a Christmas vacation when the state court
has not even considered the issue yet. The Younger doctrine of
abstention dictates that, absent extraordinary circumstances, a
federal court should not interfere with ongoing state judicial
proceedings that are judicial in nature, implicate important
state interests, and offer an adequate opportunity for review of
constitutional claims. Crenshaw v. Supreme Court of Indiana,
170 F.3d 725, 728 (7th Cir. 1999); Green v. Benden,
281 F.3d 661, 666 (7th Cir. 2002); Middlesex County Ethics Comm.
v. Garden State Bar Assoc., 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). This
doctrine is based on principles of federalism and comity
interests and applies to civil proceedings when important state
interests are at stake. Penzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc.,
481 U.S. 1, 17, (1987); Brunken v. Lance, 807 F.2d 1325, 1330 (7th
Here, the Younger factors all favor abstention. The ongoing
state court proceedings are clearly judicial in nature and
implicate important state interests, as proceedings implicating
family law are a traditional area of state regulation. Mansell
v. Mansell, 490 U.S. 581, 587 (1989). Moreover, the Seventh
Circuit has routinely applied Younger abstention to child
custody matters because the state is so "heavily involved" in
such proceedings. Bassey v. People of the State of Illinois,
231 F.3d 1338, 2000 WL 1012963, at *2 (7th Cir. July 21,
2000), citing Brunken, 807 F.2d at 1330. "Apart from its role
as a forum-provider in resolving custody disputes, the state has
an independent interest in the child's health and welfare." Id.
Singleton has not shown that she does not have an adequate
opportunity to raise her claims in the state court proceedings or
that the state court is not an adequate forum to adjudicate her
claims. Nor has there been any showing that the state court proceeding is motivated by any desire to
harass or bad faith or that it involves such extraordinary
circumstances that she will be irreparably injured. Id. at
1331; Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 49 (1971).
Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not
demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, as the
doctrine of Younger abstention is clearly applicable under the
facts of this case. Plaintiffs' request for a TRO effectively
enjoining the state court proceedings is therefore denied.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion
for Temporary Restraining Order [#3] is DENIED.
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