in the nature of the constitutional deprivation alleged and the probable consequences of abstaining. The District Court was faced with two class actions attacking a statutory scheme allegedly impairing the right to vote in violation of Art. I, § 2, and the Fourteenth, Seventeenth and Twenty-fourth Amendments. As this Court has stressed on numerous occasions, "the right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government." The right is fundamental "because preservative of all rights." In appraising the motion to stay proceedings, the District Court was thus faced with a claimed impairment of the fundamental civil rights of a broad class of citizens. The motion was heard about two months prior to the deadline for meeting the statutory requirements and just eight months before the 1964 general elections. Given the importance and immediacy of the problem, and the delay inherent in referring questions of state law to state tribunals, it is evident that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to abstain.
Harman v. Forssenius, 380 U.S. at 537 (citations and footnotes omitted).
Here, we are faced with even more compelling reasons not to abstain. As in Harman, there are no disputed questions of state law at issue, and the case involves the same fundamental deprivation involved in the Harman case -- the denial of the constitutional and statutory right to vote in the election of federal congressional representatives. Moreover, this motion comes under more stringent time constraints than did Harman: approximately one month before the beginning of the signature-gathering processes mandated by New York law, roughly five months before the primary election, and six months before the 1992 general elections.
Furthermore, adjudicating this dispute in state court increases the likelihood of delay. A decision by the state supreme court would be appealable to the supreme court's appellate division, then to the New York Court of Appeals, and only then to the United States Supreme Court. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1253, however, any order of this three-judge court which grants or denies injunctive relief would be appealable directly to the United States Supreme Court.
Finally, we note that the recent cases cited by the Assembly defendants, e.g., Members of the Calif. Democratic Cong. Delegation v. Eu, F. Supp. (N.D. Cal. 1992), are inapposite, primarily because the federal courts that abstained did so in favor of state redistricting processes that had been substantially completed. In Eu, for instance, the California Supreme Court, exercising its original jurisdiction, had already issued a final judgment redistricting the entire state. See also Cotlow v. Emison, 116 L. Ed. 2d 764, 112 S. Ct. 855 (1992) (vacating order of three-judge district court enjoining state court proceedings where state court was on eve of issuing final judgment and where case involved disputed questions of state constitutional law).
"Although we are mindful of the important principles of federalism implicit in the doctrine of abstention, these principles may be outweighed in an individual case by the countervailing interest in ensuring each citizen's federal right to vote." Badham v. United States Dist. Court for the Northern Dist. of Cal., 721 F.2d 1170 (9th Cir. 1983). In view of all of these considerations, we deny the motion to abstain in favor of the state proceeding.
That said, and in light of the further reality that this dispute must be decided in one forum, we conclude that we must also exercise our power under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, to enjoin any further proceedings in the state court action. All of the claims presented in all three cases -- PRLDEF, Waring, and Reid -- are federal constitutional and Voting Rights Act claims involving the right to vote in an election for federal congressional representatives. Since we have a "virtually unflagging" obligation to decide federal claims, Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 814, 47 L. Ed. 2d 483, 96 S. Ct. 1236 (1976), we conclude that an injunction of the state redistricting case is both necessary and appropriate to protect our jurisdiction United States v. International Bhd. of Teamsters, 907 F.2d 277, 281 (2d Cir. 1990). The All Writs Act, of course, gives us the power to enjoin not only parties to the action before us, but nonparties as well. Id.
Thus, we enjoin all counsel and parties in the action Reid v. Marino, Index no. 9567/92, now pending in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Kings, from taking any further steps or proceedings in that action. Counsel for the Senate defendants are directed to serve all parties and counsel in the state-court action with copies of this memorandum and order. A courtesy copy should also be delivered to the chambers of the Supreme Court Justice presiding over the state-court action.
Plaintiff Waring's motion to return the Waring v. Gantt action to the Western District is denied in all respects.
George C. Pratt,
United States Circuit Judge
John S. Martin, Jr.
United States District Judge
Sterling Johnson, Jr.
United States District Judge
Dated: New York, New York
May 5, 1992
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