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2022

Abstention

Notre Dame Law School

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Abstaining Equitably, Fred O. Smith Jr. Jun 2022

Abstaining Equitably, Fred O. Smith Jr.

Notre Dame Law Review

The doctrine of Younger abstention—which counsels federal courts not to interrupt ongoing state criminal proceedings—balances dueling considerations. On the one hand, the doctrine preserves federal courts’ ability to exercise Congressionally conferred, properly invoked jurisdiction to prevent irreparable violations of the federal constitution. On the other, the doctrine provides space for autonomous state courts to carry out their traditional role in the realm of criminal justice. This Essay identifies four central features of the Younger doctrine that maintain this balance. By protecting these features, federal courts can ensure that Younger remains a doctrine of equitable restraint, instead of inequitable abdication.

First, …