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Ziankovich v. Large

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 5, 2017

BRYON M. LARGE, and JAMES C. COYLE, Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on the Plaintiff Youras Ziankovich's (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Ziankovich”) Second Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause Why a Preliminary Injunction Should Not Be Issued (“Second Motion for TRO”) [#14, filed September 14, 2017], which the presiding judge, the Honorable Christine M. Arguello, referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Order Referring Case dated September 6, 2017 [#8], and the Memorandum dated September 14, 2017 [#15]. Upon careful review of the Second Motion for TRO, the entire case file, and applicable law, this court concludes that there is a jurisdictional bar to both the requested injunctive relief and this action. Defendants filed a Response to the Second Motion for TRO on October 5, 2017 [#19], [1] and this court has determined that it is appropriate to proceed with this Recommendation without further Reply by Plaintiff. D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(d). Accordingly, I respectfully RECOMMEND that the Motion for TRO be DENIED without prejudice, and that this case be DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).


         Plaintiff commenced this action by filing his pro se[2] Complaint on August 24, 2017. [#1]. Plaintiff's Complaint stated that this “is an action for declaratory relief commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and in accordance with the Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” [#1 at 2]. As Defendants, Plaintiff names Bryon M. Large (“Mr. Large”) and James C. Coyle (“Mr. Coyle”) (collectively, “Defendants”), both of whom are legal counsel within the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. [Id.]. The Complaint also alleges that Plaintiff's primary residence and one of his business offices are located in Colorado. [Id. at 2- 3].

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief that Defendants had no authority to initiate an attorney disciplinary action against Plaintiff, because Plaintiff is not and has never been licensed in the state of Colorado; does not practice before Colorado state courts and/or agencies; and only practices federal immigration law in the State pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 292.1(a)(1). [Id.]; see also [#14-1]. Plaintiff argues that Defendants lack jurisdiction to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Colorado Supreme Court's attorney regulations, as he only practices in federal court and is subject only to New York's attorney regulations because he is licensed in New York. See [#14-1 at 3-6]. Plaintiff contends that the pending disciplinary action, Case No. 17PDJ037, poses an imminent threat of danger and irreparable harm, because he may be required to disclose sensitive client information that may also subject him to discipline in New York, and that any disciplinary sanctions imposed may negatively affect his reputation. [Id. at 6-7].

         On August 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed his first Motion for TRO seeking to enjoin the disciplinary action pending in state court. [#5]. The undersigned then had the case redrawn to a District Judge pursuant to Local Rule 40.1(c)(2)(a). See [#6]. The presiding judge, the Honorable Christine M. Arguello, then referred the first Motion for TRO to the undersigned Magistrate Judge on September 6, 2017. [#9]. However, before addressing the merits of the first Motion for TRO, this court issued an Order to Show Cause directing Plaintiff to clarify the basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction over this action. See [#11 at 3].

         Plaintiff then filed his Amended Complaint on September 10, 2017, which this court also construed as his Response to the Order to Show Cause. See [#12]. The Amended Complaint indicates that Plaintiff invokes this court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and asserts several new claims against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as a claim for violations of the Commerce Clause, art. I, § 8, cl. 3 of the United States Constitution. See [id. at 5-6]. Plaintiff still requests declaratory relief in addition to attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and 28 U.S.C. § 2412.[3] [Id. at 5]. In light of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, this court issued a Recommendation that Plaintiff's first Motion for TRO be denied as moot [#13], which Judge Arguello adopted on October 5, 2017. [#20]. Plaintiff filed his Second Motion for TRO, which is identical to his first Motion for TRO, on September 14, 2017. [#14].

         Defendants entered their appearance on September 7, 2017. See [#10]. Pursuant to the executed summonses, Defendants were to file their answer or responsive pleading to Plaintiff's Complaint [#1] on or before September 15, 2017. See [#4]. On September 25, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss [#18] that has not been referred to this Magistrate Judge for Recommendation. On October 5, 2017, Defendants filed a Response to the Second Motion for TRO. [#19]. While Mr. Ziankovich has not yet replied to the Second Motion for TRO or the Motion to Dismiss, this court's review of the briefing related to the Second Motion for TRO and the Amended Complaint reveals that an expeditious Recommendation advances the guiding principle of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure-that the Rules be implemented in a manner to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding. Fed.R.Civ.P. 1.


         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, as such, “are duty bound to examine facts and law in every lawsuit before them to ensure that they possess subject matter jurisdiction.” The Wilderness Soc. v. Kane Cty., Utah, 632 F.3d 1162, 1179 n.3 (10th Cir. 2011) (Gorsuch, J., concurring). Indeed, courts have an independent obligation to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence of a challenge from any party. 1mage Software, Inc. v. Reynolds & Reynolds, Co., 459 F.3d 1044, 1048 (10th Cir. 2006) (citing Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500 (2006)). This includes a determination that the court should abstain under Younger and its progeny. See D.L. v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 497, 392 F.3d 1223, 1228 (10th Cir. 2004) (“Younger abstention is jurisdictional.”).

         “Under the Younger abstention doctrine, federal courts should not ‘interfere with state court proceedings by granting equitable relief-such as injunctions of important state proceedings or declaratory judgments regarding constitutional issues in those proceedings-' when a state forum provides an adequate avenue for relief.” Weitzel v. Div. of Occupational & Prof'l Licensing of Dep't of Commerce of State of Utah, 240 F.3d 871, 875 (10th Cir. 2001) (quoting Rienhardt v. Kelly, 164 F.3d 1296, 1302 (10th Cir. 1999)). Younger abstention is the exception rather than the rule, as federal courts “have a virtually unflagging obligation to exercise the jurisdiction given them.” Joseph A. ex rel. Corrine Wolfe v. Ingram, 275 F.3d 1253, 1267 (10th Cir. 2002) (internal ellipsis, quotation marks, and citations omitted). Yet, Younger abstention is appropriate if:

(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.

Amanatullah v. Colorado Bd. of Med. Examiners, 187 F.3d 1160, 1163 (10th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         If the Younger conditions are satisfied, abstention is mandatory absent extraordinary circumstances. See Crown Point I, LLC v. Intermountain Rural Elec. Ass'n, 319 F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir. 2003); Brown ex rel. Brown v. Day, 555 F.3d 882, 888 n.4 (10th Cir. 2009) (noting two exceptions to Younger abstention: (1) a showing of bad faith or harassment by state officials, or (2) the state law or regulation is “flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions.” (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)). And given its obligation to consider its own subject matter jurisdiction, this court could even raise Younger ...

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