11th Amendment, Abstention Nip Lawyer's Federal Suit.
Indiana lawyer Zena D. Crenshaw didn't like it when the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Indiana informed her that a grievance had been filed against her and then issued a subpoena seeking information about certain expenditures and about her private and business bank accounts. So she challenged the Indiana Supreme Court rule under which the commission acted, contending the rule is unconstitutional as a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights because it subjects her to an unreasonable search and seizure.
The federal district court in which her suit for an injunction was filed abstained from exercising jurisdiction under the Younger abstention doctrine, which comes from Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), finding that commission's actions were ongoing state judicial proceedings implicating important state interests. Affirming and modifying, the Seventh Circuit went a step further to dismiss the action as against the Indiana Supreme Court and the commission because the 11th Amendment barred the suit, and as against the Indiana Supreme Court justices and others as individuals on abstention grounds. Crenshaw v. Supreme Court of Indiana, 1999 WL 135068, March 15.
Writing for the Seventh Circuit panel, Judge Ripple ruled that the elements necessary to support federal abstention had been met. "The state disciplinary proceeding was commenced before Ms. Crenshaw brought her federal suit," he wrote. "The district court properly left the merits of both the proceeding and her suit to be resolved by state authorities."