Abstention doctrine

Abstention Doctrine

Abstention doctrine

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An abstention doctrine is any of several doctrines that a court of law in the United States of America might (or in some cases must) apply to refuse to hear a case, when hearing the case would potentially intrude upon the powers of another court. Such doctrines are usually invoked where lawsuits involving the same issues are brought in two different courts at the same time, particularly two different court system (e.g., federal and state courts within a federal system).

The United States has a federal court system with limitations on the cases that federal courts can hear, while each state has its own individual court system. In some instances, the jurisdiction of these courts overlaps, so a lawsuit between two parties may be brought in either or both courts. The latter circumstance can lead to confusion, waste of resources, and the appearance that one court is disrespecting the other. Both federal and state courts have developed rules determining when one court will defer to another's jurisdiction over a particular case.

Federal abstention doctrines

The various abstention doctrines applied by federal courts are named for the Supreme Court cases in which they were enunciated.

Pullman Abstention

Pullman abstention was the first "doctrine of abstention" to be announced by the Court, and is named for Railroad Commission v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496 (1941). Concisely, the doctrine holds that "the federal courts should not adjudicate the constitutionality of...
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