Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 12, 2010

Federal District Court Denies Injunction Request for State Court Proceedings Challenging Permit Issued Pursuant to Settlement Agreement Approved by Federal Court

Industrial Tower and Wireless, LLC (“ITW”) and the Town of Epping jointly moved to enforce the U.S. District Court’s order approving their settlement of ITW’s claim that the Town violated the Telecommunications Act (“TCA”). Both ITW and the Town had reached a settlement which was approved by the Court providing ITW with a building permit for a wireless tower. Later, ITW and the Town sought to enjoin Burley (who had intervened in this case prior to the settlement agreement, but did not join in it) and Dubrava (who was never a party here) from challenging the permit in state court. Ultimately the Court found that they lacked the authority to enjoin Burley or Dubrava from pursuing state-court proceedings by virtue of the Anti-Injunction Act (28 U.S.C. § 2283) and therefore denied their motion for an injunction.

In support of their motion to enjoin Burley and Dubrava from challenging the Permit for the tower in state court, ITW and the Town invoked the All Writs Act, which provides that federal courts “may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” In response, Burley argued that the Court lacked the power to grant relief by virtue of the Anti-Injunction Act, which provides that a federal court “may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in state court except as expressly authorized by an Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments.” Therefore, the court held that the Anti-Injunction Act is an absolute prohibition against enjoining state court proceedings, unless the injunction falls within one of three specifically defined exceptions. The exceptions being that the injunction is expressly authorized by Congress, necessary in aid of this court’s jurisdiction, or necessary to protect or effectuate its judgment. The court found that ITW and the Town did not explain how the injunction they seek fits within any of the exceptions.

First, the court found that the All Writs Act itself does not amount to an act of Congress empowering federal courts to enjoin state-court litigation despite the Anti-Injunction Act and is in fact limited by the Anti-Injunction Act. Second, while ITW and the Town argued that the injunction would be necessary or appropriate in aid of the court’s jurisdiction within the meanings of the All Writs Act, the Court found that the “necessary in aid of its jurisdiction” exception does not apply here because it has only been applied to in rem proceedings or in cases where a state-court proceeding would interfere with ongoing federal oversight of a case and this case did not fit into either of those categories. Lastly, the injunction ITW and the Town sought against state-court proceedings also does not fit within the “necessary to protect or effectuate its judgments” exception because this exception is founded in the well-recognized concepts of res judicata and collateral estoppel which has not been satisfied by the parties here. The Court’s rational for this is that the issue that would be protected from relitigation by enjoining the state-court proceedings was not actually decided by this court but was left undecided and the court simply approved the settlement agreement between the parties. As a result, the court denied the motion by ITW and the Town for an injunction against Burley and Dubrava.

Industrial Tower and Wireless, LLC. v. Town of Epping, 2010 WL 4026127 (D. Ct. D. NH, 10/14/2010)

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