Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 25 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

reflects the application of a per se rule: "[T]he power of federal courts to abstain from exercising their jurisdiction, at least in Burford abstention cases, is founded upon a discretion they possess only in equitable cases." 47 F. 3d, at 355-356.

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 our abstention cases. We have explained the power to dismiss or remand a case under the abstention doctrines in terms of the discretion federal courts have traditionally exercised in deciding whether to provide equitable or discretionary relief, see supra, at 717-719, 721-722, and the Commissioner appears to have conceded that the relief being sought in this case is neither equitable nor otherwise committed to the discretion of the court. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 35a-37a (order denying petition for rehearing). In those cases in which we have applied traditional abstention principles to damages actions, we have only permitted a federal court to "withhold action until the state proceedings have concluded," Growe, 507 U. S., at 32; that is, we have permitted federal courts applying abstention principles in damages actions to enter a stay, but we have not permitted them to dismiss the action altogether, see supra, at 719-721.

The per se rule described by the Ninth Circuit is, however, more rigid than our precedents require. We have not strictly limited abstention to "equitable cases," 47 F. 3d, at 356, but rather have extended the doctrine to all cases in which a federal court is asked to provide some form of discretionary relief. See Huffman, 319 U. S., at 297; Samuels, 401 U. S., at 69-70, 72-73; supra, at 718-719. Moreover, as demonstrated by our decision in Thibodaux, see supra, at 719- 721, we have not held that abstention principles are completely inapplicable in damages actions. Burford might support a federal court's decision to postpone adjudication of a damages action pending the resolution by the state courts

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