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DORAN V. SALEM INN, INC., 422 U. S. 922 (1975)

U.S. Supreme Court

Doran v. Salem Inn, Inc., 422 U.S. 922 (1975)

Doran v. Salem Inn, Inc.

No. 74-337

Argued April 21-22, 1975

Decided June 30, 1975

422 U.S. 922


Three corporations (M & L, Salem, and Tim-Rob), on August 9, 1973, filed a complaint in District Court, seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and declaratory relief, against Doran, a law enforcement official, claiming that a North Hempstead, N.Y., ordinance proscribing topless dancing, which the corporations had provided as entertainment in their bars, violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The District Court denied the prayer for a temporary restraining order instanter, and set the motion for a preliminary injunction for hearing on August 22. On August 10, M & L, alone of the three corporations, which had theretofore complied with the ordinance, resumed topless dancing, whereupon it was served with criminal summonses. Thereafter, the District Court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance against the corporations "pending the final determination of this action." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the "ordinance would have to fall" and rejecting Doran's claim that the District Court should have dismissed the complaint on the authority of Younger v. Harris, 401 U. S. 37, and companion cases, which it concluded did not bar relief as to Salem and Tim-Rob because there had been no prosecution against them under the ordinance. A different result for M & L was not deemed warranted in view of the interests of avoiding contradictory outcomes, of conserving judicial energy, and of having a clear-cut method for determining when federal courts should defer to state prosecutions. Doran appealed under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2), which gives this Court appellate jurisdiction at the behest of a party relying on a state statute held unconstitutional by a court of appeals.


1. The issues, which were neither briefed nor argued, whether § 1254(2) applies to a review of the affirmance of a preliminary injunction or is confined to review of a final judgment, and whether the Court of Appeals, in fact, held the ordinance unconstitutional, need not be resolved, since this Court has certiorari jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2103, under which this matter can be reviewed. P. 422 U. S. 927.

Page 422 U. S. 923

2. The question of entitlement to relief in the light of Younger v. Harris, supra, and companion cases, should be considered as to each corporation separately, and not in the light of contradictory outcomes and other factors relied upon by the Court of Appeals when it lumped the three plaintiffs together. Pp. 422 U. S. 927-929.

3. Younger squarely bars injunctive relief, and Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U. S. 66, bars declaratory relief for M & L in view of the fact that, when the criminal summonses were issued on the days immediately following the filing of the federal complaint, the federal litigation was in an embryonic stage, and no contested matter had been decided. P. 422 U. S. 929.

4. Salem and Tim-Rob, against whom no criminal proceedings were pending, were not subject to Younger's restrictions in seeking declaratory relief. Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U. S. 452. Those two corporations could also seek preliminary injunctive relief without regard to Younger's restrictions, since, prior to a final judgment, a declaratory remedy cannot afford relief comparable to a preliminary injunction. Pp. 422 U. S. 930-931.

5. In the circumstances of this case and in the light of existing case law, the District Court did not abuse its discretion in granting preliminary injunctive relief to Salem and Tim-Rob. Pp. 422 U. S. 931-934.

(a) The District Court was entitled to conclude that Salem and Tim-Rob satisfied one of the two traditional requirements for securing a preliminary injunction, viz., showing irreparable injury, because they made uncontested allegations that, absent such relief, they would suffer a substantial business loss, and perhaps even bankruptcy. Pp. 422 U. S. 931-932.

(b) The District Court was also entitled to conclude that those corporations satisfied the other traditional requirement for interim relief by showing a likelihood that they would prevail on the merits, since they were, inter alia, challenging (and had standing to challenge, Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U. S. 104, 408 U. S. 115) a "topless" ordinance as being unconstitutionally overbroad in its application to protected activities at places that do not serve liquor as well as to places that do. See California v. LaRue, 409 U. S. 109, 409 U. S. 118. Pp. 422 U. S. 932-934.

Appeal dismissed and certiorari granted; 501 F.2d 18, reversed as to M & L, and affirmed as to Salem and Tim-Rob.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN,

Page 422 U. S. 924

and POWELL, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 422 U. S. 934.

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