When citizens’ rights have been violated, they are entitled to their day in court. If you have a federal claim, you are likewise presumptively entitled to your day in federal court.
This basic tenet of the law is, shockingly, at issue in this case, Nicole K. v. Stigdon. While the facts of this case do not concern a First Amendment issue, continued expansion of “abstention” doctrines – the idea that federal courts should abstain from hearing a case if there is or could be a state proceeding – could severely limit federal court challenges to state actions that violate your First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court carefully limited what is known as Younger abstention, and the district court here erred in its application of the doctrine. But a panel of the Seventh Circuit went even further, ignoring all the restrictions on Younger abstention and allowing a court to abstain whenever it felt that respect for the state courts required it to do so.
The Institute for Free Speech joined the Institute for Justice, the ACLU of Illinois, and the Southern Poverty Law Center to call for the rehearing of this case en banc before the entire Seventh Circuit.
Correcting this error is crucial to allow future litigation to clearly and robustly protect citizens’ First Amendment rights in federal court, without being mired in decades of state court litigation.
Order Denying Motion for Leave to File Amicus Brief, United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (April 19, 2021)
Institute for Justice, the ACLU of Illinois, Institute for Free Speech, and the Southern Poverty Law Center Amicus Brief, United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (April 16, 2021)