Tenth Circuit Finds Younger Abstention Inapplicable; Threat of Double Jeopardy is "Extraordinary Circumstance" Warranting Federal Intervention
Per Walck v. Edmondson, 472 F.3d 1227 (10th Cir. Jan. 4, 2007):
[Appellant, accused of felony manslaughter in state court proceedings, sought a writ of habeas corpus when state court had denied a writ of prohibition as to an impending second trial, after the first had been dismissed with prejudice as a mistrial.]
Absent unusual circumstances, a federal court is not permitted to intervene in ongoing state criminal proceedings. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 54 (1971) . . . [F]ederal courts must abstain pursuant to Younger when: "(1) there is an ongoing state criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding, (2) the state court provides an adequate forum to hear the claims raised in the federal complaint, and (3) the state proceedings involve important state interests, matters which traditionally look to state law for their resolution or implicate separately articulated state policies." Crown Point I, LLC v. Intermountain Rural Elec. Ass'n, 319 F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir.2003) . . .
We need not decide, however, whether the three conditions for mandatory abstention exist here because Ms. Walck's case presents an extraordinary circumstance warranting federal intervention. We have previously recognized that "[t]he Younger abstention doctrine is inapplicable ... where irreparable injury can be shown." Weitzel v. Div. of Occupational & Prof'l Licensing, 240 F.3d 871, 876 (10th Cir.2001); see also Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 85 (1971). Additionally, a threat to an individual's federally protected rights constitutes irreparable injury where the threat "cannot be eliminated by . . . defense against a single criminal prosecution." Younger, 401 U.S. at 46.
. . .
In light of Abney [v. United States, 431 U.S. 651 (1977), in which the Supreme Court found that the denial of a pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment on double jeopardy grounds was immediately appealable], it is clear that federal intervention is justified where prospective state prosecutions run afoul of the Double Jeopardy Clause. This stems from the fact that the injury to an individual's double jeopardy rights engendered by an illegitimate successive retrial is no less irreparable simply because the prosecution comes under the guise of state, rather than federal, authority. See Justices of Boston Mun. Court v. Lydon, 466 U.S. 294, 303 (1984) ("[A] requirement that a defendant run the entire gamut of state procedures, including retrial, prior to consideration of his claim in federal court, would require him to sacrifice one of the protections of the Double Jeopardy Clause."). Without federal court intervention, Ms. Walck will be forced to "endure the personal strain, public embarrassment, and expense of a criminal trial more than once for the same offense" in violation of her constitutional rights. Abney, 431 U.S. at 661. And although notions of comity and federalism carry heavy weight in our system of government, such notions do not mean that the federal courts must sit idly by while "the rights conferred on a criminal accused by the Double Jeopardy Clause [are] significantly undermined." Id. at 660. We therefore hold that Younger abstention is unwarranted where a criminal accused presents a colorable claim that a forthcoming second state trial will constitute a violation of her double jeopardy rights.