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Preliminary Injunction Standards in Massachusetts State and Federal Courts

54 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2013  

Arthur D. Wolf

Western New England University School of Law

Date Written: 2013


Concurrent jurisdiction frequently allows attorneys the choice of filing a complaint in state or federal court. State courts presumptively have jurisdiction over claims rooted in federal law. At times, state courts are required to entertain federal claims. Similarly, federal courts have authority over state claims because of diversity, federal question, and supplemental jurisdiction. Many claims are rooted in both state and federal law, such as antitrust, civil rights, environmental, consumer protection, and civil liberties. Confronted with the choice of state or federal court, the attorney must evaluate a variety of factors before deciding in which court to file.

In a civil action where the plaintiff seeks a preliminary injunction, the selection of a state or federal court may determine the success of the motion for temporary relief. The reason is simple: state and federal courts frequently apply differing standards to such preliminary motions. Massachusetts state and federal courts apply different standards, although some courts have indicated to the contrary. In the federal courts, the matter of differing standards is compounded by the complex Erie/Hanna doctrine. State courts may be similarly bound by the much less well known "reverse-Erie" doctrine. Consequently, the Massachusetts federal and state courts may be required to apply state standards to state claims and federal standards to federal claims.

This Article explores the standards for preliminary injunctions in Massachusetts state and federal courts, and the intricacies that attend their application. Part I provides background for the examination of state and federal standards. Part II addresses the criteria for temporary relief in the Massachusetts state courts, while Part III reviews the comparable standards in the Massachusetts federal courts. Part IV inquires into the Erie/Hanna doctrine as it applies to preliminary relief in the federal courts. The Article concludes with the Author's observations about the issues raised.

Keywords: preliminary injuctions, standards, jurisdiction, state courts, federal courts, Erie/Hanna doctrine

Suggested Citation

Wolf, Arthur D., Preliminary Injunction Standards in Massachusetts State and Federal Courts (2013). Western New England Law Review, Vol. 35, p. 1, 2013; Western New England University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-10. Available at SSRN:

Arthur D. Wolf (Contact Author)

Western New England University School of Law ( email )

1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01119
United States

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