Act, "considerations of practicality and wise judicial administration" take precedence over the otherwise prevailing doctrine that federal courts should adjudicate claims within their jurisdiction. Wilton at 2142-43
Declaratory judgment actions which have as their underlying basis rights that are essentially governed by state law present particularly appropriate cases for application of the abstention doctrine. See Quackenbush at *12 (citing cases). Plaintiff's action asks this court for a declaratory judgment regarding the rights of the parties to a mortgage, rights which are, and historically have been, governed by state law. This action thus fits precisely within the ambit of those cases where the Supreme Court has held the district court's exercise of its abstention authority to be proper.
Application of the factors enunciated by the Supreme Court in Colorado River v. United States also indicates that this case presents the appropriate circumstances for the court's application of its abstention authority. Colorado River enunciated several factors relevant to the district court's decision to abstain where concurrent state proceedings are pending: (1) prior assumption of jurisdiction over the property in the state court; (2) inconvenience of the federal forum; (3) the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation; (4) the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forums. Colorado River at 818. The second Colorado River factor is not relevant here. However, the remaining three factors weigh heavily in favor of abstention. The Kings County Court clearly had prior jurisdiction over the res, the mortgage foreclosure action having been properly filed in that court approximately four years before the present dispute found its way to this court. In addition, for this court to consider and rule on the rights of parties to a mortgage, when that mortgage is currently the subject of litigation pending in state court, undoubtedly would lead to piecemeal litigation.
Furthermore, the absence of any significant federal interests in this action provides additional grounds for abstention. The action presents no claims based on federal law; the only basis for this court's jurisdiction is the diversity of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Balancing the "strong federal interest" in having certain classes of cases and certain federal rights adjudicated in federal court against the state's interests in maintaining "uniformity in the treatment of an essentially local problem" see Quackenbush at *16, the federal interests weigh in a distant second.
Since its decision in Colorado River, the Supreme Court has made clear that a district court "might be indulging in 'gratuitous interference'" if it permits a federal declaratory action to proceed, where another suit involving the same parties and presenting opportunity for ventilation of the same state law issues is pending in state court." Wilton at 2141 (citing Brillhart v. Excess Insur. Co., 316 U.S. 491, 495, 86 L. Ed. 1620, 62 S. Ct. 1173 (1942)). After careful considerations of both parties' papers submitted in connection with three motions made before this court, and after several oral arguments on this issue, the court finds that the claims of all parties in interest can satisfactorily be adjudicated in the state court proceedings currently pending. The court's finding necessarily renders this action for a declaratory judgment duplicative, and its invocation of the abstention doctrine is therefore proper. Haagen-Dazs Shoppe Co., Inc. v. Born, 897 F. Supp. 122, 126 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (quoting Brillhart at 493-97).
The abstention doctrine may be invoked either through a stay or dismissal of the action. In Quackenbush, the Court distinguished between cases in law, where outright dismissal or remand is rarely proper, although a stay is sometimes appropriate, and cases seeking equitable or otherwise discretionary relief, where a district court has the power to decline to exercise jurisdiction altogether through either dismissal or remand. Quackenbush at *13. Because this action is one for a declaratory judgment and the relief requested is discretionary with this court, dismissal of the case is appropriate. As the court finds no purpose would be achieved through staying rather than dismissing the action, it invokes its discretionary authority to dismiss this case.
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
July 1st, 1996
I. Leo Glasser, U.S. D. J.