Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 13 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

with state policies, whether the policy relates to the enforcement of the criminal law, or the administration of a specialized scheme for liquidating embarrassed business enterprises, or the final authority of a state court to interpret doubtful regulatory laws of the state. These cases reflect a doctrine of abstention appropriate to our federal system, whereby the federal courts, 'exercising a wise discretion,' restrain their authority because of 'scrupulous regard for the rightful independence of the state governments' and for the smooth working of the federal judiciary. This use of equitable powers is a contribution of the courts in furthering the harmonious relation between state and federal authority without the need of rigorous congressional restriction of those powers." 312 U. S., at 500-501 (citations omitted).

Though we have thus located the power to abstain in the historic discretion exercised by federal courts "sitting in equity," we have not treated abstention as a "technical rule of equity procedure." Thibodaux, supra, at 28. Rather, we have recognized that the authority of a federal court to abstain from exercising its jurisdiction extends to all cases in which the court has discretion to grant or deny relief. See NOPSI, supra, at 359 (mandate of federal jurisdiction "does not eliminate . . . the federal courts' discretion in determining whether to grant certain types of relief"). Accordingly, we have not limited the application of the abstention doctrines to suits for injunctive relief, but have also required federal courts to decline to exercise jurisdiction over certain classes of declaratory judgments, see, e. g., Huffman, 319 U. S., at 297 (federal court must abstain from hearing declaratory judgment action challenging constitutionality of a state tax); Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U. S. 66, 69-70, 72-73 (1971) (extending Younger abstention to declaratory judgment actions), the granting of which is generally committed to the courts' discretion, see Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U. S. 277, 282 (1995) (federal courts have "discretion in

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