All posts by Irene Zurko

California Supreme Court: No Special Rules to Authenticate Red-Light-Camera Evidence; Evidence Is Not Hearsay

In a unanimous decision published yesterday,camera the California Supreme Court concluded that the evidence generated by an automated traffic enforcement system (ATES) was adequately authenticated by the testimony of a city officer, and that the ATES evidence did not constitute hearsay.

The defendant in People v. Goldsmith was cited for failing to stop at a red traffic light at an intersection located in the City of Inglewood. The evidence presented against her included several photographs and a 12-second video, all of which were generated by an ATES. Only one witness testified at the defendant’s trial, Continue reading


SCOTUS Confirms that Younger Abstention Is Appropriate in Only Three Exceptional Circumstances

In a unanimous decision released Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal abstention under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) applies in only three “exceptional circumstances.”  The Court previously identified those exceptional circumstances in New Orleans Public Service, Inc. v. Council of City of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350 (NOPSI) (1989). This week, it confirmed, in Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs et al., that Younger abstention extends no further. Supreme Court

The Court reaffirmed that Younger abstention is appropriate, and federal courts should defer to state courts, only when faced with:

  1.  “state criminal prosecutions,”
  2. “civil enforcement proceedings,” or
  3. “civil proceedings involving certain orders that are uniquely in furtherance of the state courts’ ability to perform their judicial functions.”

If none of those exceptional circumstances is present, the federal courts may not invoke Younger abstention.

As we discussed previously, Sprint involved two separate actions that Sprint Communications, Inc. initiated against members of the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), one pending in Iowa state court and the other in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.  In both actions, Continue reading


IMLA Joins State Partners To Address Abstention Issue Before Supreme Court

When is it appropriate for a federal court to decide a case that is pending in state court?Supreme Court

On the Supreme Court’s docket is a case that addresses this very issue, giving the Court the chance to once again ponder the limits of the Younger abstention doctrine.

That case, on appeal from the Eighth Circuit, is Sprint Communs. Co., L.P. v. Jacobs, Case No. 12-815.

At issue is whether Younger abstention applies only when the underlying state proceeding is “coercive” or whether it is sometimes appropriate for federal courts to abstain from hearing cases that are “remedial” in nature.  Many cases dealing with Younger abstention have turned on that distinction. But the difference between “coercive” and “remedial” proceedings, and the way courts classify cases as one or the other, is anything but clear-cut.  Indeed, the distinction could turn on whether the government or a private party initiated the action, as “coercive” proceedings are typically described as those that are criminal or quasi-criminal in nature.

Continue reading