United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. GODBEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Order addresses Defendant the City of Dallas, Texas's
(“the City”) motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1)  and motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the City's
Rule 12(b)(1) motion with respect to Plaintiffs' claims
for retroactive relief, but otherwise denies both motions.
Origins of the Dispute
case is about the enforcement of three panhandling laws in
Dallas, Texas. Dallas Ordinance § 31-35 (“section
31-35”) prohibits solicitation by coercion, after
sunset, and in certain specified areas of the City. Dallas
Ordinance § 28-63.3 (“section 28-63.3”)
prohibits solicitation of occupants of vehicles from public
property adjacent to the roadway. Section 28-63.3 defines
solicitation as, either orally or in writing, (1) asking for
a ride, employment, goods, services, financial aid, monetary
gifts, or any article representing monetary value, for any
purpose; or (2) offering to sell something; or (3) giving
away goods, services or publications; or (4) asking for
signatures on a petition. The final law, Texas Transportation
Code § 552.007 (“section 552.007) prohibits a
person standing in a roadway to solicit a ride, contribution,
employment, or business from an occupant of a vehicle. The
statute makes a single exception for individuals that have
gained the permission of local government to solicit
charitable contributions, i.e., local fire departments'
“fill the boot” campaigns.
Yvette Gbalazeh, Lee Sunbury, and Fred Sims allege that they
have been cited under each of these laws, and that all three
violate their First and Fourth Amendment rights. In addition
to retroactive relief regarding their previous convictions,
they seek injunctive and declaratory relief stating the laws
are unconstitutional and preventing future enforcement. By
previous Orders, the Court granted Plaintiffs a preliminary
injunction with respect to section 28-63.3 and section
552.007, but not for section 31-35. The City now moves to
dismiss Plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
The Court Grants in Part and Denies in Part The City's
Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss
City argues that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over Plaintiffs' claims for three reasons: (1)
Plaintiffs' claims violate the abstention doctrine
established in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 41
(1971); (2) Plaintiffs' claims constitute collateral
attacks on final state court judgments in violation of the
doctrine established by Rooker v. Fidelity Trust
Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923) and D.C. Court of Appeals
v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983); and (3) Plaintiffs have
failed to show they have an injury under section 31-35 that
satisfies the standing requirements in Lujan v. Defenders
of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). The Court
disagrees with the City's first and third arguments, and
agrees with its second only with respect to Plaintiffs'
claims for retroactive relief.
The Rule 12(b)(1) Standard
federal court's entertaining a case that is not within
its subject matter jurisdiction is no mere technical
violation; it is nothing less than an unconstitutional
usurpation of state judicial power.” Charles Alan
Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 3522 (3d
ed. 2019). Rule 12(b)(1) is the procedural tool that enables
parties to raise subject matter jurisdiction challenges. In
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the “court is free to
weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of
its power to hear the case.” Williamson v.
Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir. 1981). The court
thus can rely on “any one of three separate bases: (1)
the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by
undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the
complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the
court's resolution of disputed facts.” Id.
Younger Abstention Does Not Bar Plaintiffs'
requirements must be met for a district court to apply
Younger abstention: “(1) the federal
proceeding would interfere with an ‘ongoing state
judicial proceeding'; (2) the state has an important
interest in regulating the subject matter of the claim; and
(3) the plaintiff has ‘an adequate opportunity in the
state proceedings to raise constitutional
challenges.'” Bice v. La. Pub. Defender
Bd., 677 F.3d 712, 716 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing
Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n., 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982)).
abstention does not bar Plaintiffs' claims because they
did not have an adequate opportunity to raise their
constitutional claims in state court. The key inquiry is
whether or not the plaintiff “cannot obtain an adequate
remedy for the putative violations of his constitutional
rights.” Bice, 677 F.3d at 719. The City
argues that even though Dallas Municipal Courts cannot issue
injunctive relief, Plaintiffs still had an adequate
opportunity because the Municipal Courts can consider
constitutional challenges to charges. But Plaintiffs'
claims are about more than fighting an arrest or citation;
they seek an injunction that allows them to continue
exercising what they believe to be a First Amendment right.
The Municipal Courts may be able to acquit them of a charge
based on their constitutional arguments, but the courts
cannot grant an injunction enabling them to legally engage in
the activity going forward. See Texas Government
Code § 29.001-105. Thus, the Court holds that
Younger does not strip the Court of subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims.
The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine Bars Only Plaintiffs' Claims
for Retroactive Relief
Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents federal district
courts from hearing cases in which “a judgment in favor
the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of the
[state court] conviction or sentence.” Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). The only exceptions
are if the plaintiff proves “that the [state court]
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state