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A federal court may abstain from granting an injunction or declaratory judgment and remand the parties to state court for an interpretation of a statute or an injunction. This is usually done if there is an ambiguity that the state court may be able to clarify to avoid the constitutional issue. It is not done if the issue regards free speech or where further delays are unjustifiable. This is a discretionary doctrine that allows a federal court to avoid needless conflicts with a State. 


'The various types of abstention are not rigid pigeonholes' but instead 'reflect a complex of considerations designed to soften the tensions inherent' in a dual state-federal system of justice. Pennzoil Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 481 U.S. 1, 11 n.9, 95 L. Ed. 2d 1, 107 S. Ct. 1519 (1987). 


There is both a civil and criminal doctrine. The criminal abstention doctrine established by Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), requires the target of an ongoing state prosecution to raise any and all constitutional claims as defenses to that action and prevents the state court defendant from filing a collateral ...

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