Avoiding a Comity of Errors: A Model for Adjudicating Federal Civil Rights Suits that Interfere with State Civil Proceedings
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 29, p. 27, 1976
66 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2009
Date Written: 1976
Until the 1974 Term, the United States Supreme Court's decisions regarding federal court actions affecting related state court proceedings had been confined to federal cases that arguably interfered with state criminal prosecutions. But in Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., the Court held that considerations of “comity” and “equity” precluded federal court relief that would interfere with some state court civil actions as well.
The purpose of this article is to determine the extent to which the “equity” and “comity” doctrines that the Supreme Court has developed primarily to prevent federal court interference with state criminal prosecutions also should preclude federal court adjudication of section 1983 cases that might interfere with state civil actions. The article first reviews and analyzes, and discusses the rationales underlying, the most important Supreme Court and lower court cases in both the “criminal comity” and “civil comity” areas. Based on this analysis of case law and rationales, the article then develops a decisionmaking scheme for use by federal courts faced with possible civil comity issues. Finally, the decisionmaking scheme is applied to a number of illustrative cases.
Keywords: civil rights, federalism, jurisdiction
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