Sunday, December 28, 2014

MBE Fast Fact: Abstention

In prior posts I've written about some limitations on the exercise of federal jurisdiction. Some examples of such limitations are a lack of standing, the rule against advisory opinions, and cases deemed moot or not yet ripe. Another limitation to keep in mind occurs when a federal court abstains from resolving a constitutional claim. For MBE purposes, keep in mind that a federal court will temporarily abstain from resolving a constitutional claim where the disposition rests on an unsettled question of state law.

Further, federal courts will not enjoin pending state criminal proceedings (and sometimes state civil proceedings) even if the federal court has jurisdiction over the case. A case is generally deemed to be pending the moment it is filed. Rather, the federal court will wait until after the state prosecution has ended to hear the case.

There is an important exception here, however, to keep in mind. A federal court will hear an action to enjoin a pending state court proceeding if is being conducted in bad faith (for example, a case moving forward in state court merely to harass the defendant).

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