Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States

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In Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court noted the "virtually unflagging obligation of the federal courts to exercise the jurisdiction given them" but outlined exceptional circumstances in which a district court may abstain. The factors that would weigh in favor of abstention include:

the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation
the inconvenience of the federal forum
the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forums

The Court reaffirmed Colorado River in Moses H. Cone Memorial Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1 (1983), adding two other factors which bear on abstention. These were, first, whether the source of governing law was state or federal and, second, whether the state court proceedings could adequately protect the federal plaintiff's rights. Id. at 23-27. As the Court stated in Colorado River, "No one factor is necessarily determinative; a carefully considered judgment taking into account both the obligation to exercise jurisdiction and the combination of factors counseling against that exercise is required. Only the clearest of justifications will warrant dismissal." 424 U.S. at 818-19 (citation omitted).

These factors were applied in favor of abstention in Allen v. Louisiana State Bd. of Dentistry, 835 F.2d 100 (5th Cir. 1988).