LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a central Arkansas city and a judge that alleges they’re violating constitutional rights by effectively operating a debtor’s prison with a court that’s imposed fines and jail time on thousands of people whose checks bounce.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. on Thursday dismissed the lawsuit against the city of Sherwood and Judge Milas Hale III.

Moody cited the Younger doctrine, which requires a federal district court to not exercise jurisdiction in state cases that have ongoing proceedings that can compromise state interests.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas helped file the lawsuit and says it’s disappointed it was dismissed on procedural grounds and not the case’s merits.

The Associated Press has left a message seeking comment from Sherwood officials.