Balancing Comity with the Protection of Preclusion: The Scope of the Relitigation Exception to the Anti-Injunction Act
affiliation not provided to SSRN
October 10, 2011
Virginia Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 6, p. 1475, 2011
Hailed as a linchpin of “Our Federalism,” the Anti-Injunction Act is one of the oldest and most important statutes governing our system of federal-state judiciary relations. The Act sets out a bar against federal courts enjoining state court litigation, subject to very limited exceptions. In doing so, the Act promotes a principle crucial to the frictionless functioning of federalism: the general independence of the state and federal court systems from one another. One of the most contested portions of the Act today is the exception for injunctions which are necessary to “protect or effectuate [federal courts’] judgments,” also known as the “relitigation exception.” The exception is designed to provide some measure of affirmative preclusion protection for federal court judgments, shifting the protection mechanism from a preclusion defense to be raised in state court by a party to an injunction against the state court litigation itself. Currently, there is a significant, but often overlooked, rift within the courts of appeals over the extent of preclusion protection provided by this important exception. After reviewing the Act’s history and the current circuit split in Parts I and II, Part III of this Note seeks to resolve what the proper interpretation of the scope of the relitigation exception should be. Drawing on arguments from text, history, Supreme Court precedent, and normative values of federalism and comity, this Note argues that the proper scope of the relitigation exception is to limit injunctive protection to “claims or issues actually decided” by the lower federal court.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: Anti-Injunction Act, relitigation exception, federal courts, preclusion, injunction, comity, federalism
Date posted: October 11, 2011