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Civil Procedure — abstention

U.S. Supreme Court


Civil Procedure — abstention

It was error for a federal court to abstain from considering an action involving federal law, even though an action was pending before a state utilities board.

The initial IUB proceeding does not fall within any of NOPSI’s three exceptional categories and therefore does not trigger Younger abstention. The first and third categories plainly do not accommodate the IUB’s proceeding, which was civil, not criminal in character, and which did not touch on a state court’s ability to perform its judicial function. Nor is the IUB’s order an act of civil enforcement of the kind to which Younger has been extended. The IUB proceeding is not “akin to a criminal prosecution.” Huffman, 420 U. S., at 604. Nor was it initiated by “the State in its sovereign capacity,” Trainor v. Hernandez, 431 U. S. 434, 444, to sanction Sprint for some wrongful act, see, e.g., Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Assn., 457 U. S. 423, 433–434. Rather, the action was initiated by Sprint, a private corporation. No state authority conducted an investigation into Sprint’s activities or lodged a formal complaint against Sprint.

690 F. 3d 864, reversed.

12-815 Sprint Communications Inc. v. Jacobs


Ginsburg, J.

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