Younger v. Harris

Facts of the Case

Appellee Harris, who had been indicted for violating the California Criminal Syndicalism Act, sued in the Federal District Court to enjoin appellant, the county District Attorney, from prosecuting him, contending that the Act is unconstitutional on its face and inhibits him in exercising his free-speech rights. Appellees Dan and Hirsch, claiming that the prosecution of Harris would inhibit them from peacefully advocating the program of the political party to which they belonged, and appellee Broslawsky, a college professor, claiming that the prosecution made him uncertain as to whether his teaching and reading practices would subject him to prosecution, intervened as plaintiffs. All asserted that they would suffer irreparable injury unless a federal injunction was issued. A three-judge court, relying on

Question

Did the federal court, in stopping a prosecution in a state court, violate constitutional principles of federalism?

CONCLUSION

In an 8-to-1 decision, the Court held that settled doctrines of federalism narrowly confined the availability of injunctive relief against state criminal prosecutions. Specifically, the Court found that a federal court could not properly enjoin enforcement of a statute solely on the basis of showing that the statute ‘on its face’ abridges First Amendment rights. The Court referred to the basic doctrine of equity jurisprudence, under which federal courts were required to show proper respect for state functions and notions of comity.

Case Information