Citizens for Free Speech, LLC v. County of Alameda, No. 18-16805 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging constitutional violations arising from the County's enforcement of its billboard ordinance through an abatement proceeding. The panel agreed with the district court that all the elements required for Younger abstention were present where the abatement proceeding was ongoing, constitutes a quasi-criminal enforcement action, implicates an important state interest in its land-use ordinances and in providing a uniform procedure for resolving zoning disputes, and allows litigants to raise a federal challenge. Furthermore, plaintiffs' federal action could substantially delay the abatement proceeding, thus having the practical effect of enjoining it.
The panel also affirmed the district court's order awarding attorney's fees and costs. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that plaintiffs' action was frivolous at the outset. The panel also held that the County was the prevailing party where the district court's Younger-based dismissal effected a material change in the parties' relationship because it eliminated the possibility that plaintiffs' federal lawsuit would halt or impede the County's abatement proceeding.