ArtIII.S1.1.1.2.3.4.2 Federal Court Non-Interference With State Jurisdiction: Exhaustion Doctrine

Article III, Section 1:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

A complainant will ordinarily be required, as a matter of comity, to exhaust all available state legislative and administrative remedies before seeking relief in federal court.1 To do so may make unnecessary federal-court adjudication. The complainant will ordinarily not be required, however, to exhaust his state judicial remedies, inasmuch as it is a litigant's choice to proceed in either state or federal courts when the alternatives exist and a question for judicial adjudication is present.2 But when a litigant is suing for protection of federally guaranteed civil rights, he need not exhaust any kind of state remedy.3

Footnotes

  1.  Jump to essay-1The rule was formulated in Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co., 211 U.S. 210 (1908), and Bacon v. Rutland R.R., 232 U.S. 134 (1914).
  2.  Jump to essay-2City Bank Farmers' Trust Co. v. Schnader, 291 U.S. 24 (1934); Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268 (1939). But see Alabama Public Service Comm’n v. Southern Ry., 341 U.S. 341 (1951). Exhaustion of state court remedies is required in habeas corpus cases and usually in suits to restrain state court proceedings.
  3.  Jump to essay-3Patsy v. Florida Board of Regents, 457 U.S. 496 (1982). Where there are pending administrative proceedings that fall within the Younger rule, a litigant must exhaust. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), as explicated in Ohio Civil Rights Comm’n v. Dayton Christian School, Inc., 477 U.S. 619, 627 n.2 (1986). Under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, barring employment discrimination on racial and other specified grounds, the EEOC may not consider a claim until a state agency having jurisdiction over employment discrimination complaints has had at least 60 days to resolve the matter. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–5(c). See Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522 (1972). The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act contains a specific, limited exhaustion requirement for adult prisoners bringing actions pursuant to § 1983. Patsy, 457 U.S. at 508.