United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
PULLMAN ARMS INC.; GUNS and GEAR, LLC; PAPER CITY FIREARMS, LLC; GRRR! GEAR, INC.; and NATIONAL SHOOTING SPORTS FOUNDATION, INC., Plaintiffs,
MAURA HEALEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
STAY (DOCKET NO. 67)
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE.
Arms, Inc., Guns and Gear, LLC, Paper City Firearms, LLC, and
National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.
(“Plaintiffs”) brought this action to challenge
the Enforcement Notice issued by Attorney General Healey.
Attorney General Healey now moves to stay this litigation
pursuant to Colorado River Water Conservation District v.
United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813, 96 S.Ct. 1236 (1976).
For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion (Docket
No. 67) is denied.
2016, Attorney General Healey informed the public of her plan
to enforce the Commonwealth's Assault Weapons Ban, which
prohibits the possession and sale of “copies or
duplicates” of certain enumerated weapons. See
Mass. Gen. L. c. 140, §§ 121; 131M. She issued a
public Enforcement Notice, which applied prospectively, to
provide “guidance on the identification of weapons that
are ‘copies' or duplicates' of the enumerated
Assault weapons that are banned under Massachusetts
law.” (Docket No. 15-7, at 2).
September 22, 2016, Plaintiffs filed this action challenging
the Enforcement Notice. On January 10, 2017, the Attorney
General moved to dismiss. (Docket No. 22). On March 14, 2018,
this Court denied the motion in part, and granted it in part.
Pullman Arms v. Healey, 301 F.Supp.3d 227 (D. Mass.
2018). This Court allowed Plaintiffs to proceed with two
claims: that the Enforcement Notice is unconstitutionally
vague and that it deprived Plaintiffs of property without due
General Healey then took an interlocutory appeal regarding
the dismissal of state law claims. When Plaintiffs'
counsel stipulated at oral argument that Plaintiffs would not
pursue any state law claims, the First Circuit dismissed the
appeal “[b]ased upon the representation of the
plaintiffs-appellees, made in open court, that they are not
pursing any state-law claims in the underlying action”
Judgement, Pullman Arms v. Healey, First Cir. No.
August 2018, while the First Circuit appeal was pending,
Baystate Firearms and Training, LLC and Downrange Inc. filed
a lawsuit in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County
against Attorney General Healey asserting a Declaratory
Judgment Act claim under Mass. Gen. L. c. 231A. In that
lawsuit, the plaintiffs contend that the Enforcement Notice
is not advisory but rather constitutes a regulation
promulgated without the requisite public hearing and comment
period. See Mass. Gen. L. c. 30A, § 2(a). On
October 25, 2018, the Single Justice requested supplemental
briefing on whether the claim was “ripe for
review” and “whether the enforcement notice
identified in the plaintiff's complaint should be subject
to pre-enforcement judicial review.” (Docket No. 67-2,
at 2-3). On December 20, 2018, the Single Justice transferred
the case to the Massachusetts Superior Court pursuant to
Mass. Gen. L. c. 221, § 4A. See Docket No.
67-3. The case is now pending in Suffolk Superior Court.
February 7, 2019, Attorney General Healey moved to stay these
proceedings pursuant to the Colorado River
abstention doctrine. (Docket No. 67).
litigation in state court is not sufficient to merit
abstention in federal court. See McClellan v.
Carland, 217 U.S. 268, 282, 30 S.Ct. 501 (1910);
Stanton v. Embrey, 93 U.S. 548, 554, 23 L.Ed. 983
(1876). That is, “[c]oncurrent federal-state
jurisdiction over the same controversy does not generally
lessen the federal courts' virtually unflagging
obligation to exercise the jurisdiction given them.”
Jiménez v. Rodriguez-Pagán, 597 F.3d
18, 27 (1st Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citation
obligation, however, “is not infinite.”
Id. “Over time, categories of cases have
emerged illustrating when abstention may be
appropriate” such as Pullman,
Burford, and Younger abstention.
Nazario-Lugo v. Caribevisión Holdings, Inc.,
670 F.3d 109, 115 (1st Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). In
Colorado River, the Supreme Court recognized another
situation where abstention is appropriate, which
“allows federal courts in limited instances to stay or
dismiss proceedings that overlap with concurrent litigation
in state court.” Id. at 21.
crevice in federal jurisdiction that Colorado River
carved is a narrow one.” Id. at 27. Thus,
“[a]bdication of the obligation to decide cases can be
justified under the doctrine only in the exceptional
circumstances where the order of the parties to repair to the
state court would clearly serve an important countervailing
interest.” Colorado River Water Conservation
District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813,
96 S.Ct. 1236 (1976) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
evolving list of factors exists to aid in discerning whether
a particular case involves exceptional circumstances that tip
a scale heavily weighted in favor or the exercise of federal
jurisdiction.” Nazario-Lugo, 670 F.3d at 115.
The list includes:
(1) whether either court has assumed jurisdiction over a res;
(2) the geographical inconvenience of the federal forum; (3)
the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation; (4) the
order in which the forums obtained jurisdiction; (5) whether
state or federal law controls; (6) the adequacy of the state
forum to protect the parties' interests; (7) the
vexatious or contrived ...