Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Abstention (Doctrine) definition

Abstention (Doctrine) - The policy that a federal district court may decline to exercise its jurisdiction and may instead allow a state court to decide a federal constitutional question and/or questions of state law.

  • Abstention is based on comity and it intended to restrict federal court inference in state proceedings.
  • Also see "Federalism."
  • Example: A prisoner that is in a state prison brings a lawsuit to federal district court claiming that under the federal law, he is entitled to have access to a law library.  The state in which the prisoner is held may require by law that each state prison must maintain an adequate law library.  The federal court applies the abstention doctrine in refusing to hear the case, instead instructing the prisoner to bring the issue in a state court.
 See: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case brief
Marisol v. Giuliani case brief

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