Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 21, 2019

Fed. Dist. Court in NV Holds Younger Abstention was Proper in Commercial Kennel Use Case

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Plaintiff, a professional dog breeder doing business as Est-Alfa K-9 Security Services, LLC, purchased real property for purposes of commercial kennel use. In 2007, the Nye County Board of Commissioners adopted Bill No. 2007-13, Nye County Ordinance No. 346, which amended zoning regulations applicable to the property by adding regulations and amendments regarding animal related uses and definitions. Nye County Code (“NCC”) 17.04.220 allowed commercial kennel use on real property located in Plaintiff’s zoning district with the approval of a conditional use permit. In 2009, Plaintiff submitted a CUP application for a commercial kennel use with up to 30 dogs to be maintained on the property, which was approved in 2010. In 2015, Plaintiff requested modification of its CUP application to allow a commercial kennel use with up to 150 dogs, which was denied. Plaintiff appealed the modification denial, but his appeal was likewise denied in 2017.

In 2018, Plaintiff filed the underlying Complaint against Defendants asserting two claims for damages and declaratory judgment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983. Following this, Nye County filed suit against Plaintiff in Nevada state court to enforce the Enforcement Order, seeking an injunction enjoining and restraining Plaintiff from a commercial kennel use on the property and removal of the same. In this case, Defendants moved for dismissal or stay of this action pending the resolution of the Enforcement Action pursuant to Younger abstention, and Plaintiff requested the court retain jurisdiction of this action pursuant to the “first-to-file” rule.

At the outset, the court noted that  “when two cases involving the same parties and issues are filed in two federal districts, the first-to-file rule permits the second district to exercise its discretion to transfer, stay, or dismiss the second suit in the interests of efficiency and judicial economy.” Here, however, the two cases were not filed in two federal districts; nor was this court in the second district. Accordingly, the court held the first-to-file rule was inapplicable to this case.

Instead, the court found that this matter fit within the Younger doctrine, as the Enforcement Action was an ongoing state-initiated proceeding that implicated important state interests, and Plaintiff was not barred from litigating federal constitutional issues in the state proceedings. Additionally, Plaintiff’s requested relief—for damages and a declaration that Ordinance 346 is void as violating his procedural due process rights—would have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Thus, the court held the interests of comity and federalism applied, and that Younger abstention was proper. Accordingly, the court granted Defendants’ Motion, and dismissed Plaintiff’s Complaint without prejudice.

Platunov v Nye County, 2019 WL 4781842 (D NV 9/30/2019)

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