Dombrowski v. Pfister Anniversary Day (Decided April 26 1965)(Occasionally the Warren Court got it absolutely right….ok, it hurts to say that, but it’s true….)


New Orleans in the early 1960s was not really a hotbed of liberal activism, but I suppose it was a more comfortable place for the ACLU to set up shop than, for example say, Oxford, Mississippi or smaller counties.  New Orleans District Attorney (later Appeals Court Judge) Jim Garrison and many others from “the big easy” certainly took a dim view of their activities and they regarded (possibly correctly) the ACLU as a bunch of commie-pinkos determined to destroy and subvert the American Way of Life (ok, all doubts aside they were CERTAINLY correct about that, however….).

The Supreme Court was blatantly politically biased in favor of the ACLU and was on a political mission to reshape the South in the image of the Brave New World where nobody knows or cares about heritage or history.  In this, the Supreme Court has been amazingly successful.  The average American does not know enough history to follow historical hints on a crossword puzzle or play a historical trivial pursuit game, much less to learn from the lessons of history to prepare for the future.  

But in 1965, to protect the ACLU and its allies from prosecution at the hands of Jim Garrison and the staunchly Anti-Communist Louisiana State Legislature, the Supreme Court did a marvelous thing: it allowed the United States District Courts to enter injunctions against State Proceedings in violation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. 

Today, almost everything that happens in State Court violates the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, whether the venue is judicial foreclosure, judicial eviction, judicial dissolution of marriage, judicial domestic relations/child custody adjudication, or criminal prosecution.  President George W. Bush once (to this Country’s permanent disgrace) said that the Constitution was just a piece of paper.  The State Courts of my home state of Texas, onetime state of Florida, and currently adoptive state of California seem to use the Constitution as paper instead of Charmin or Cottonelle….  The state courts, in most parts of the United States in fact, are disgrace, so why are Federal Courts not enjoining their unconstitutional practices right and left?  Well, because the “powers that be” like it this way—it is so convenient to be able to sweep aside the Constitution through elected State Court judges and then have life-time appointed Federal Court judges just say, “don’t worry, that’s fine, you keep on doing whatever you want to do.”

For at least a dozen years now, I have been saying and in fact strongly advocating that Federal Courts need to use their supervisory power to a greater extent over the State Courts, because the State Courts have run amok, in so many different ways.   Various half-assed jurisprudential doctrines such as Rooker-Feldman and Younger v. Harris abstention, together with the evisceration of meaningful Civil Rights Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1443(1) and related illegitimate principles (utterly lacking in constitutional basis of any kind) such as judicial and prosecutorial immunity, coupled with a ferociously unfair application of res judicata and collateral estoppel, have made the State Courts all but absolutely and totally untouchable in every way.

All but absolutely:  two wonderful cases, Dombrowski v. Pfister, decided 47 years ago today (April 26, 1965) and Mitchum v. Foster, decided 7 years later in 1972, SHOULD have thrown the doors wide open to Civil Rights injunctive action against the abuses of the state courts.  Why this has not happened is, as is obvious to anyone above the age of puberty with an IQ in excess of 100, merely a matter of self-serving judicial politics.  The Lower Federal Courts have basically insulated the State Courts from review even though the Supreme Court said that they didn’t have to do so.

TO EVERYONE WHO CARES ABOUT FIGHTING POLITICALLY MOTIVATED CORRUPTION IN THE STATE COURTS, I recommend that you read and seek to resuscitate the life of Dombrowski v. Pfister (attached:   04-26-2012 Dombrowski v Pfister 380 US 479 85 SCt 1116 14 LEd2d 22 SCOTUS-April 26 1965) and Mitchum v. Foster (attached:  Mitchum v Foster 407 US 225 92 SCt 2151 32 LEd2d 705 [June 19 1972]).   The middle member of this trio of cases is Younger v. Harris and you needn’t worry about studying this one: if you sue to enjoin a State Prosecution, the State will immediately cite Younger v. Harris and quote it at length.  The analysis will be yours whether YOUR situation compares most closely with Dombrowski v. Pfister, an anti-Civil Rights drama set in New Orleans in the age of Jim Garrison (of Oliver Stone’s JFK Fame, played by Kevin Costner) or Berkeley during the “Summer of Love” (the setting for Younger v. Harris).  Unfortunately, most of the US more closely resembles Mississippi Burning at present than any other historical movie—the only difference is that all people, whites, black, browns, and reds, are being suppressed and deprived of their constitutional rights without regard to race, creed, or color, and the Courts are going along with this, pretty much unquestioningly.  It is up to the people to demand that the suppression of rights and the Congressional, Executive, and Judicial Suspension of the Constitution end now.  Following and building upon two of the Warren Court’s finest legacies would serve us all well now….

A University of Virginia Law Review Article also provides a useful perspective on these case: 74 Virginia Law Review 1141 The Ideologies of Federal Courts Law 1141 as does a distinct article from the Indiana Law Review published ten years later: 32 Indiana Law Review 71 Federal Power to Commandeer State Courts 1998 and one published at Yale just the year after Dombrowski v. Pfister was decided, in 1966: 75 Yale LJ 1007 *1966* Theories of Federalism and Civil Rights.

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