Sixth Circuit rules fired government worker has right to federal hearing
Patrick Devlin was employed by the State when he filed two civil actions attempting to enforce rules of the Gaming Commission. He was terminated from his job as a result of the filings, and filed a 42 USC 1983 civil rights action, seeking reinstatement and back pay. Devlin claimed that firing him constituted illegal punishment for exercising his civil rights. At the State's urging, however, the Ann Arbor federal judge dismissed Devlin's claim, applying the so-called Younger rule: the Younger case and several that came after it (including one involving Geoffrery Feiger, seeking to avoid state disciplinary action) establish a doctrine that a federal court will not intervene to aid a defendant against whom the state is pursuing a criminal or public policy enforcement action. The Sixth Circuit noted that the public policy underlying the Younger rule has no application where Devlin was the plaintiff in the underlying state court action. As a result, federal analysis of Devlin's constitutional and civil rights should not defer to the pending state action.