HARRY E. HAMILTON, Appellant
NICOLE BROMLEY, Centre County Children and Youth Services; DIRECTOR OWNER OPERATOR YOUTH HAVEN; JUDGE BRADLEY P. LUNSFORD; JOHN DOES, JANE DOES, Employees of Children and Youth Services, Youth Haven or ABC Corps
Date: May 22, 2017
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle
District of Pennsylvania (M.D.Pa. No. 4-14-cv-02248) District
Judge: Honorable Matthew W. Brann
Heintz [ARGUED] Jennifer L. Swize Jones Counsel for Harry E.
P. Johnson [ARGUED] Counsel for Nicole Bromley
F. Baicker-McKee Babst Calland, Amy H. Marshall [ARGUED]
Babst Calland Counsel for Director Owner Operator Youth Haven
Michael Daley [ARGUED] Counsel for Judge Bradley P. Lunsford
Before: HARDIMAN, ROTH and FISHER, Circuit Judges.
FISHER, Circuit Judge.
It is a
longstanding principle that the federal courts "have no
more right to decline the exercise of jurisdiction which is
given, than to usurp that which is not given."
Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 404
(1821). But in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971), the Supreme Court recognized "a far-from-novel
exception to this general rule, " Sprint
Commc'ns, Inc. v. Jacobs, 134 S.Ct. 584, 591 (2013)
(internal quotation marks omitted), which it expanded in
subsequent decisions. Under the Court's Younger
jurisprudence, federal courts are obligated to abstain from
exercising their jurisdiction where it would interfere with
"state criminal prosecutions, " certain "civil
enforcement proceedings, " or "civil proceedings
involving certain orders that are uniquely in furtherance of
the state courts' ability to perform their judicial
functions." New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. Council
of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 368
this case, Harry Hamilton seeks declaratory and injunctive
relief from an alleged conspiracy to deprive him of contact
with his son. But because he now has custody of his son
subject to pending state-court proceedings, the District
Court opined that this case could be moot and dismissed it on
Younger abstention grounds. Although the District
Court erred in dismissing this case under Younger
before resolving whether it is moot-a federal court can
abstain from exercising its jurisdiction only if it has
jurisdiction to abstain from-we find that Hamilton's
custody of his son has mooted his case. We will accordingly
affirm the District Court's dismissal on that alternate
2004, Harry Hamilton and his ex-wife, Sherrilyn Washington,
have fought in state court for custody of their son, S.H.
This case originates from that dispute, centering on a
three-week period in 2014 when Hamilton had partial custody
of S.H. and S.H. accused Washington of abusing him.
November 7, 2014, S.H. fled from Washington's home to
Hamilton's claiming that he had been abused by her.
Hamilton filed a motion in the Centre County Court of Common
Pleas for a temporary order giving him full custody of S.H.
And after S.H. stayed with Hamilton over the weekend,
Washington filed ...