Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 15 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

Tool Co., 400 U. S. 41, 44 (1970) (per curiam) (directing District Court to "hold its hand until the Puerto Rican Supreme Court has authoritatively ruled on the local law question in light of the federal claims" (footnote omitted)) (emphasis added); United Gas Pipe Line Co. v. Ideal Cement Co., 369 U. S. 134, 135-136 (1962) (per curiam) ("Wise judicial administration in this case counsels that decision of the federal question be deferred until the potentially controlling state-law issue is authoritatively put to rest"); Clay v. Sun Ins. Office Ltd., 363 U. S. 207, 212 (1960) (approving "postponement of decision" in damages suit).

Our decisions in Thibodaux and County of Allegheny v. Frank Mashuda Co., 360 U. S. 185 (1959), illustrate the distinction we have drawn between abstention-based remand orders or dismissals and abstention-based decisions merely to stay adjudication of a federal suit. In Thibodaux, a city in Louisiana brought an eminent domain proceeding in state court, seeking to condemn for public use certain property owned by a Florida corporation. After the corporation removed the action to federal court on diversity grounds, the Federal District Court decided on its own motion to stay the case, pending a state court's determination whether the city could exercise the power of eminent domain under state law. The case did not arise within the "equity" jurisdiction of the federal courts, 360 U. S., at 28, because the suit sought compensation for a taking, and the District Court lacked discretion to deny relief on the corporation's claim. Nonetheless, the issues in the suit were "intimately involved with [the State's] sovereign prerogative." Ibid. We concluded that "[t]he considerations that prevailed in conventional equity suits for avoiding the hazards of serious disruption by federal courts of state government or needless friction between state and federal authorities are similarly appropriate in a state eminent domain proceeding brought in, or removed to, a federal court." Ibid. And based on that conclusion, we affirmed the District Court's order staying the case.

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