Opinion of the Court
We have often acknowledged that federal courts have a strict duty to exercise the jurisdiction that is conferred upon them by Congress. See, e. g., Colorado River, 424 U. S., at 821 ("[F]ederal courts have a 'virtually unflagging obligation . . . to exercise the jurisdiction given them' "); England v. Louisiana Bd. of Medical Examiners, 375 U. S. 411, 415 (1964) (" 'When a federal court is properly appealed to in a case over which it has by law jurisdiction, it is its duty to take such jurisdiction' ") (quoting Willcox v. Consolidated Gas Co., 212 U. S. 19, 40 (1909)); Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 404 (1821) (federal courts "have no more right to decline the exercise of jurisdiction which is given, than to usurp that which is not"). This duty is not, however, absolute. See Canada Malting Co. v. Paterson S. S., Ltd., 285 U. S. 413, 422 (1932) ("[T]he proposition that a court having jurisdiction must exercise it, is not universally true"). Indeed, we have held that federal courts may decline to exercise their jurisdiction, in otherwise " 'exceptional circumstances,' " where denying a federal forum would clearly serve an important countervailing interest, Colorado River, supra, at 813 (quoting County of Allegheny v. Frank Mashuda Co., 360 U. S. 185, 189 (1959)), for example, where abstention is warranted by considerations of "proper constitutional adjudication," "regard for federal-state relations," or "wise judicial administration," Colorado River, supra, at 817 (internal quotation marks omitted).
We have thus held that federal courts have the power to refrain from hearing cases that would interfere with a pending state criminal proceeding, see Younger v. Harris, 401 U. S. 37 (1971), or with certain types of state civil proceedings, see Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U. S. 592 (1975); Juidice v. Vail, 430 U. S. 327 (1977); cases in which the resolution of a federal constitutional question might be obviatedPage: Index Previous 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007