The opinion of the court was delivered by: LASKER
The Harvey Group, Inc. ("Harvey"), moves, pursuant to Rule 65(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for a preliminary injunction restraining Frank Fernandez ("Fernandez"), and any other party to this action from prosecuting certain third-party claims asserted by Fernandez against Harvey in an action commenced by Goodridge against Fernandez in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. The motion is denied.
On December 3, 1982 Arnold Goodridge ("Goodridge") and New Wave Electronics, Inc. ("New Wave"), commenced actions against Harvey and Components Plus, Inc. ("CPI") in the Supreme Court, New York County, to recover (1) on a promissory note, (2) for breach of an employment agreement and (3) for the breach of a consulting agreement. Harvey and CPI later removed the actions to this court. In their answer to the pleadings they asserted various counterclaims and sued Fernandez as one of the additional defendants on the counterclaims. On June 23, 1983 summary judgment was granted as to Harvey on the ground that there was no basis for "piercing the corporate [illegible]" to hold Harvey liable for agreements to which CPI, and not Harvey, was the signatory. At a later date, Fernandez moved to disqualify Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson ("Seyfarth, Shaw") as counsel for Harvey and CPI, and the motion was denied on July 30, 1984.
On August 28, 1984 Goodridge and New Wave commenced an action in the Supreme Court, New York County, against Fernandez on his guaranty of payment of the obligations under the promissory note, the employment agreement and the consulting agreement which are the subject of the present federal suit. Fernandez then filed third-party claims against Harvey for indemnification. It is the litigation of Fernandez' third-party claims which Harvey now seeks to enjoin.
Harvey asserts that two issues which have been decided previously by this Court, i.e., Harvey's liability for CPI's obligations and whether Seyfarth, Shaw should be disqualified as counsel, are likely to be relitigated in the New York action.
Goodridge and Fernandez argue that they are asserting claims in the state court which have not been asserted in this action and therefore this court is barred by 28 U.S.C. § 2283 (1982) (hereinafter "the anti-injunction statute") from enjoining the state court proceeding. Harvey answers that under the circumstances of this case the anti-injunction statute does not prevent enjoining the state proceeding because the case falls within the exceptions which allow a court to issue an injunction to "protect or effectuate its judgments" and "where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction"
However, the policy of comity which prompted the enactment of the anti-injunction statute requires that the exceptions be narrowly construed. As stated by the Supreme Court,
[S]ince the statutory prohibition against such injunctions in part rests on the fundamental constitutional independence of the States and their courts, the exceptions should not be enlarged by loose statutory construction. Proceedings in state courts should normally be allowed to continue unimpaired by intervention of lower federal courts. * * *
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 287, 26 L. Ed. 2d 234, 90 S. Ct. 1739 (1970).
Generally, under the statute an injunction is considered to be "necessary in aid of a court's jurisdiction" in an in rem proceeding in which, to secure or retain jurisdiction, control over the res must be asserted. See Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp., 433 U.S. 623, 642, 53 L. Ed. 2d 1009, 97 S. Ct. 2881 (1977); Heyman v. Kline, 456 F.2d 123, 131 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S 847, 34 L. Ed. 2d 88, 93 S. Ct. 53 (1972); Companion Life Insurance Co. v. Matthews, 547 F. Supp. 836, 839 (S.D.N.Y. 1982). However, even when an action is not in rem, injunctive relief may be "necessary to prevent a state court from so interfering with a federal court's consideration or disposition of a case as to seriously impair the federal court's flexibility and authority to decide that case." Atlantic Coast Line R.R. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 295, 26 L. Ed. 2d 234, 90 S. Ct. 1739 (1970); accord Complaint of Cosmopolitan Shipping Co. S.A., 453 F. Supp. 268 (S.D.N.Y. 1978).
In this action Goodridge seeks recovery from CPI on the promissory note, employment agreement and consulting agreement. In contrast, in the state action Goodridge seeks recovery from Fernandez on Fernandez' guaranty of the above obligations and Fernandez, in turn, seeks recovery from Harvey on third-party claims which Fernandez has not asserted in the federal action. Based upon these facts we conclude that the state court action does not, at least on the present state of the record, pose a threat to "the very authority of the federal court." Vernitron Corporation v. Benjamin, 440 F.2d 105, 108 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 987, 29 L. Ed. 2d 154, 91 S. Ct. 1664 (1972). If it later becomes apparent that the state proceedings constitute a genuine threat to this court's jurisdiction Harvey is free to renew his application based upon those developments.
Further, Harvey's assertion that a motion by Fernandez to disqualify Harvey's counsel "will make a mockery" of this court's prior order is at best premature. Even if the state court were to entertain a motion to disqualify Harvey's counsel in the proceedings before it, such a ruling, were it to be granted, could not be said to interfere with the jurisdiction of this court so long as it did not purport to affect the proceedings here in any way. As stated ...