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U.S. Supreme Court

Gulfstream Aerospace v. Mayacamas, 485 U.S. 271 (1988)

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. v. Mayacamas Corp.

No. 86-1329

Argued December 7, 1987

Decided March 22, 1988

485 U.S. 271


Petitioner sued respondent in state court for breach of contract. Respondent did not remove the action to federal court, but, one month later, filed a diversity action against petitioner in the Federal District Court for breach of the same contract. The District Court denied petitioner's motion to stay or dismiss the action before it, finding that the facts of the case fell short of those necessary to justify the requested discontinuance under Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U. S. 800, which held that, in "exceptional" circumstances, a district court may stay or dismiss an action because of the pendency of similar state court litigation. The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that neither 28 U.S.C. § 1291 -- which provides for appeals from "final decisions" of the district courts -- nor § 1292(a)(1) -- which authorizes appeals from interlocutory orders granting or denying injunctions -- allowed an immediate appeal from the District Court's order. The court also declined to treat petitioner's notice of appeal as an application for a writ of mandamus under the All Writs Act.


1. A district court order denying a motion to stay or dismiss an action when a similar suit is pending in state court is not immediately appealable under § 1291 or § 1292(a)(1). Pp. 485 U. S. 275-288.

(a) Since the order in question does not end the litigation, but ensures that it will continue in the District Court, it is not appealable under § 1291. The order does not fall within the collateral order exception to § 1291, since it fails to satisfy the exception's "conclusiveness" requirement in that it is inherently tentative, and not made with the expectation that it will be the final word on the subject addressed. Given both the nature of the factors to be considered under Colorado River and the natural tendency of courts to attempt to eliminate matters that need not be decided from their dockets, a district court usually will expect to revisit and reassess an order denying a stay in light of events occurring in the normal course of litigation. Pp. 485 U. S. 275-278.

(b) Since the order in question relates only to the conduct or progress of litigation before the District Court, it cannot be considered an injunction

Page 485 U. S. 272

appealable under § 1292(a)(1). Petitioner's claim that the order is appealable pursuant to the doctrine of Enelow v. New York Life Ins. Co., 293 U. S. 379, and Ettelson v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 317 U. S. 188, under which orders granting or denying stays of "legal" proceedings on "equitable" grounds were considered to be immediately appealable injunctions, is rejected. The Enelow-Ettelson doctrine is overruled, since it is based on outmoded procedural differentiations and produces arbitrary and anomalous results in modern practice. Pp. 485 U. S. 279-288.

2. Petitioner has failed to satisfy its burden of showing that the District Court's refusal to order a stay or dismissal of the suit before it constituted an abuse of discretion sufficient to warrant the extraordinary remedy of mandamus in the Court of Appeals. Petitioner's assertion that a party's decision to spurn removal and bring a separate federal court suit invariably constitutes "exceptional" circumstances warranting stay or dismissal under the Colorado River doctrine is rejected. Pp. 485 U. S. 288-290.

806 F.2d 928, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except KENNEDY, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. SCALIA, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 485 U. S. 290.

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