This Week At The Ninth: Abstention And The Golden Globes

Published date14 December 2022
Subject MatterAntitrust/Competition Law, Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Antitrust, EU Competition , Trials & Appeals & Compensation
Law FirmMorrison & Foerster LLP
AuthorJoel F. Wacks and Alexandra Avvocato

This week, the Court addresses the application of abstention doctrine to federal takings litigation and whether the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's membership policies violate antitrust law.


The Court holds that Knick v. Township of Scott, 139 S. Ct. 2162 (2019), and Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco, 141 S. Ct. 2226 (2021), do not explicitly limit the application of the Pullman abstention doctrine in takings litigation.

The panel: Judges Thomas, M. Smith, and McShane (D. Or.), with Judge M. Smith writing the opinion.

Key highlight: "[N]either Knick nor Pakdel explicitly limit abstention in takings litigation. Neither case even addresses abstention. Rather, they address ripeness, which goes to when a claim accrues for purposes of judicial review. Abstention, on the other hand, allows courts to stay claims that have already accrued. Abstention doctrines do not create a condition precedent to litigation; rather, they serve federalism by allowing a state court to decide state-law issues in the first instance." (Internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Background: Plaintiffs own property in an area of the City of Half Moon Bay. Under the City's Land Use Plan (LUP), a landowner seeking to build on that area must submit a master plan for approval that analyzes a proposed development's impact. Plaintiffs instead submitted an application for approval to build housing pursuant to California Senate Bill 330 (SB 330). They took the position that SB 330'which prohibits agencies from rejecting affordable-housing proposals unless they find the project would have an adverse impact on public health or safety'required the City's approval of their proposal. The City rejected the proposal, explaining that SB 330 did not apply because a master plan under the LUP had never been approved.

Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court, claiming the City had effected a regulatory taking by rejecting their proposal and enforcing the LUP's restrictions. The City then filed an eminent domain action in state court to acquire plaintiffs' property. It also filed a motion to abstain in the federal case pending resolution of the state action, which the district court granted. Plaintiffs appealed.

Result: The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Court first rejected plaintiffs' argument that the Supreme Court's recent decisions in Knick v. Township of Scott, 139 S. Ct. 2162 (2019), and Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco, 141...

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