Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 3 (1996)

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(c) Applying Burford to this case, the federal interests are pronounced, as Allstate's motion to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act implicates a substantial federal concern for the enforcement of arbitration agreements. With regard to the state interests, the case appears at first blush to present nothing more than a runof-the-mill contract dispute: The Commissioner seeks damages for Allstate's failure to perform its obligations under a reinsurance agreement. Pp. 728-730. (d) To the extent the Ninth Circuit held only that a federal court cannot, under Burford, dismiss or remand an action when the relief sought is not discretionary, its judgment is consistent with this Court's abstention cases. The Commissioner appears to have conceded that the relief sought is neither equitable nor otherwise committed to the court's discretion. However, by limiting Burford abstention to equitable cases, the court applied a per se rule more rigid than this Court's precedents require. Since abstention principles are not completely inapplicable in damages actions, Burford might have supported an order to stay the federal proceedings pending the outcome of the state court litigation on the setoff issue. Only the remand order which the Ninth Circuit entered is being reviewed, and, thus, it is not necessary to determine whether a more limited abstention-based stay order would have been warranted on the facts of this case. Pp. 730-731.

47 F. 3d 350, affirmed.

O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Scalia, J., post, p. 731, and Kennedy, J., post, p. 733, filed concurring opinions.

Karl L. Rubinstein argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Dana Carli Brooks, Melissa S. Kooistra, William W. Palmer, and David L. Shapiro.

Donald Francis Donovan argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Carl Micarelli, Joseph D. Lee, and James G. Sporleder.*

*Richard Ruda and James I. Crowley filed a brief for the Council of State Governments et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al. by Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of Massachusetts, and Thomas W. Rynard; for the National Association of Independent Insurers et al. by Charles Platto and Phillip Stano; and for the Reinsurance Association of America et al. by Maureen E. Mahoney.

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