Abstention

Abstention in the United States

A doctrine designed to reduce conflict between federal and state courts. Abstention allows a federal court to withhold exercise of its jurisdiction on a federal constitutional issue until a state court has rendered judgment on state law that may have a bearing on the federal question. The abstention doctrine also directs a federal court to refuse to decide some question if the matter can be resolved wholly on the basis of state law applied by a state court. Abstention is regarded as essential to the operation of a dual court system where both federal and state judges have an obligation to uphold the federal Constitution. The case of Younger v. Harris (401 U.S. 37: 1971) is illustrative. Harris had sought an injunction from a federal court to prevent his prosecution at the state level. The Supreme Court refused to permit federal intervention even in the presence of First Amendment issues without a clear showing that the state’s actions produced irreparable injury for Harris.

See Also

Comity (Judicial Effects and Policies) Doctrine (Judicial Effects and Policies) Dual System (Judicial Effects and Policies).

Analysis and Relevance

Abstention addresses the question of proper forum for judicial involvement in a controversy. The doctrine maintains that a federal court should not assume jurisdiction in a case until the uncertainties of state law are addressed by the appropriate state courts. Abstention by the federal court may prevent or minimize conflict by limiting federal court interference in matters pertaining primarily to state law. Abstention also permits a federal court to relinquish its jurisdiction if the federal court determines that the central issue in a case has been appropriately resolved at the state level. A particular form of abstention is known as comity. Comity is a courtesy by which one court extends deference to another in the exercise of authority. Comity is offered out of respect and goodwill rather than obligation. Like abstention, it is aimed at preventing friction between two courts, both of which may have legitimate jurisdictional claims in a case.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Abstention from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Abstention Definition

In French Law. The tacit renunciation of a succession by an heir. Merlin, Repert.

Abstention in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

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Abstention Abstention in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
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Abstention Abstention in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

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Abstention Abstention in the Environmental Law Portal of the American Encyclopedia of Law.

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Legal Issue for Attorneys

In French Law. The tacit renunciation of a succession by an heir. Merlin, Repert.

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Notice

This definition of Abstention Is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This definition needs to be proofread..

Academic Abstention

Abstention in the Context of International Disputes

Quackenbush Case and the Discretion to Decline Jurisdiction in International Civil Litigation

Analysis of the Discretion to Decline Jurisdiction in relation with the Parallel Proceedings (Lis Alibi Pendens and Antisuit Injunctions).

Abstention Background

Abstention (Commencement)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of abstention. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Commencement is provided. Finally, the subject of Case Administration in relation with abstention is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Abstention (Federal, State Interrelationships)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of abstention. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Federal, State Interrelationships is provided. Finally, the subject of Civil Procedure in relation with abstention is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Abstention (Practice)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of abstention. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Practice is provided. Finally, the subject of Civil Rights Law in relation with abstention is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Abstention (Procedure)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of abstention. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Procedure is provided. Finally, the subject of Civil Rights Law in relation with abstention is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

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See Also

  • Abuse of Process
  • International Judicial Assistance in Civil Matters
  • International Judicial Assistance in Criminal Matters
  • International Judicial Assistance in Administrative Matters
  • Cross-Border Discovery
  • Abroad Evidence

Abstention: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

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Federal primary materials about Abstention by content types:

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US Constitution
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Federal Case Law and Court Materials

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Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Abstention and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Abstention or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Abstention and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Abstention. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Abstention should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Abstention when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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