United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Christopher-James Waldorf, pro se.
Kathryn Iverson Landrum, Assistant Attorney General for
Defendants Mark Dayton, Lori Swanson, William J. Cashman,
Rachel Schmidt, and George Lock.
R. Kjellberg-Nelson, QUINLIVAN & HUGHES, PA, for
Defendants Janelle P. Kendall, Kyle Triggs, John L. Sanner,
J. Freihammer, Nate Kyollo and Cody Vojacek.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY
R. TUNHEIM Chief Judge
Christopher-James Waldorf filed this action against a number
of Minnesota state and county employees and their spouses
(collectively, “Defendants”) on January 11, 2017.
On January 17, 2017, Waldorf filed an expedited motion for
preliminary injunction seeking an order from the Court
enjoining Defendants from proceeding with his state-court
prosecution for driving while intoxicated and refusal to
submit to chemical testing. Because the Court must abstain
from interfering with an ongoing state criminal proceeding
and Waldorf will have an opportunity to raise his claims in
state proceedings, the Court will deny Waldorf's motion
for preliminary injunction.
motion for preliminary injunctive relief regards
Waldorf's underlying state-court criminal case in Stearns
County, Minnesota. State v. Waldorf, Case No.
73-CR-16-157 (Stearns Cty. Dist. Ct.). On November 26,
2015, police arrested Waldorf for multiple violations of
state law arising out of a traffic stop, including operating
a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol,
pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 169A.20.1(1), and refusing to
submit to chemical testing, pursuant to Minn. Stat. §
169A.20.2. Id. After Waldorf entered a not-guilty
plea, (Am. Compl., Ex. H at 56, Feb. 2, 2017, Docket No. 28),
the state court scheduled Waldorf's criminal trial for
January 24-25, 2017, but Waldorf failed to appear and the
state court issued an arrest warrant, (see Aff. of
Kathryn Iverson Landrum ¶ 2 & Ex. A, Feb. 17, 2017,
Docket No. 37). Accordingly, police arrested Waldorf on
February 10, 2017, and released him on bond with a new trial
date of May 10, 2017. (See id.; State v.
Waldorf, Case No. 73-CR-16-157.) Notably, Waldorf
asserts, pursuant to his belief that he is a “sovereign
citizen, ” that: (1) he is not a United States citizen
but an “alien, ” “private American
national, ” “Executor, ” and “Sole
Beneficiary” of the Christopher-James Waldorf Estate;
(2) he is “foreign to the United States and Exempt
thereby;” and (3) he has the authority to
“settle” the state criminal charges against him.
(Am. Compl. at 2, 7, 13; Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Expedited
Mot. for Emergency Injunctive Relief at 2, Jan. 17, 2017,
Docket No. 6.)
initiated this action on January 11, 2017, and he filed an
amended complaint on February 2, 2017. (Compl., Jan. 11,
2017, Docket No. 1; Am. Compl.) Waldorf alleges sixteen
federal and state-law claims related to his traffic stop,
arrest, and subsequent prosecution for driving while
intoxicated and refusal to submit to chemical testing. (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 137-203.) Waldorf filed a motion for
preliminary injunctive relief on January 17, 2017.
asks the Court to enjoin Defendants from prosecuting his
state criminal case, arguing that he is likely to succeed on
the merits of his civil claims; he is likely to suffer
irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief; the
balance of equities tips in his favor; and an injunction is
in the public interest. Defendants argue that because the
Younger abstention doctrine precludes preliminary
injunctive relief and Waldorf failed to show he has satisfied
the standard for a preliminary injunction, Waldorf's
motion warrants denial.
Court considers whether the doctrine the Supreme Court
articulated in Younger v. Harris applies to this
case, thus precluding the Court from enjoining the state
criminal prosecution. 401 U.S. 37 (1971). The
Younger abstention doctrine “directs federal
courts to abstain from accepting jurisdiction in cases where
equitable relief is requested and where granting such relief
would interfere with pending state proceedings in such a way
as to offend principles of comity and federalism.”
Night Clubs, Inc. v. City of Fort Smith, 163 F.3d
475, 477 n.1 (8th Cir. 1998); see Sprint
Commc'ns, Inc. v. Jacobs, 134 S.Ct. 584, 588 (2013)
(“When there is a parallel, pending state criminal
proceeding, federal courts must refrain from enjoining the
state prosecution.”). Younger abstention is a
“prudential limitation on a court's exercise of
jurisdiction, ” as opposed to an Article III
jurisdictional bar. 3005 Cedar, LLC v. City of
Minneapolis, No. 09-1580, 2010 WL 455307, at *3 (D.
Minn. Feb. 3, 2010). Abstention is proper under
Younger when there is: (1) an ongoing state judicial
proceeding; (2) an important state interest implicated in the
state proceeding; and (3) an adequate opportunity in the
state proceeding to raise constitutional challenges.
Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982).
the Middlesex factors to the case at hand, first,
Waldorf's state criminal matter is ongoing. Although
Waldorf failed to appear for his initial trial date, a new
trial has been set for May 10, 2017. Waldorf argues that
because Stearns County District Court is without jurisdiction
over him as a sovereign citizen and because he has already
provided for “full resolution” of his criminal
matter via “settlement, ” there is no ongoing
judicial proceeding. This argument is without merit; courts
have repeatedly rejected similar sovereign citizenship
arguments. See, e.g., United States v.
Hilgeford, 7 F.3d 1340, 1342 (7th Cir. 1993)
(rejecting the “shop worn” argument that the
defendant, as a sovereign citizen, was “beyond the
jurisdictional reach of the federal courts”);
United States v. Jagim, 978 F.2d 1032, 1036
(8th Cir. 1992) (holding the defendant's
arguments that he was exempt from United States jurisdiction
because he was a citizen of the “Republic of
Idaho” and not a United States citizen were
“completely without merit”); Duwenhoegger v.
King, No. 10-3965, 2012 WL 1516865, at *14 (D. Minn.
Feb. 13, 2012) (rejecting the plaintiff's argument that
because he “is not subject to the laws of Minnesota or
the United States because he is a ‘Sovereign
Citizen'”), report and recommendation adopted
by Duwenhoegger v. King, 2012 WL 1529300 (D. Minn. Apr.
30, 2012); Estate of Casmir v. New Jersey, No.
09-4004, 2009 WL 2778392, at *5 (D.N.J. Aug. 31, 2009)
(“A person found within the United States cannot
somehow exempt himself or immunize himself from the
application of state law or federal law by declaring himself
a non-citizen . . . .”). Accordingly, the first element
of the Middlesex test is satisfied.
does not address the remaining elements of the
Younger abstention doctrine articulated in
Middlesex. With regard to the second element,
Defendants assert that Stearns County and the State of
Minnesota have an important interest in preserving and
protecting state criminal proceedings. The Court agrees.
Indeed, Younger specifically addressed a state
criminal proceeding. Younger, 401 U.S. at 41;
see Id. at 51- 52 (stating that states carry out the
“important and necessary task of enforcing [criminal]
laws against socially harmful conduct that the [s]tates
believe in good faith to be punishable under [their] laws
and the Constitution”). Thus, the second
Middlesex element is satisfied.
argue that the third Middlesex element is satisfied
because Waldorf has had and will continue to have an adequate
opportunity to raise constitutional challenges in his state
court proceedings. Waldorf can raise constitutionality
questions in state district court, appeal those decisions to
the Minnesota appellate courts, and seek further review in
the United States Supreme Court by writ of certiorari under
28 U.S.C. § 1257. See Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd.,
420 U.S. 592, 610-11 (1975) (holding Younger
abstention should have precluded federal-court intervention
in state judicial proceedings in which a litigant had not
exhausted state appellate remedies); Fenner v.
Boykin, 271 U.S. 240, 244 (1926) (holding a defendant
should “first set up and rely upon his [or her] defense
in the state courts, even though this involves a challenge
[to] the validity of some statute, unless it plainly appears
that this course [of action] would not afford ...