Lake Coal Co. v. Roberts & Schaeffer Co.

RESPONDENT: Roberts & Schaeffer Co.
LOCATION: Southhampton County Circuit Court

DOCKET NO.: 84-1240
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 474 US 120 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1985
DECIDED: Dec 03, 1985

Cleon Kilmer Combs - on behalf of the Respondent
Ronald Glen Polly - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Lake Coal Co. v. Roberts & Schaeffer Co.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1985 in Lake Coal Co. v. Roberts & Schaeffer Co.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Polly?

Ronald Glen Polly:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The issue in this matter is whether exceptional circumstances exist to justify the stay, referring to the current state action in this pure diversity action.

In the San Carlos Apache case, the dismissal was upheld because the state's suits were adequate to quantify the rights, water rights of the Indians.

Number two, they were carrying amendment policies irrelevant; number three, the state expertise and administrative machinery is adequate and set up.

The infancy of the federal suits, particularly the judicial bias against piecemeal litigation and convenience to the parties involving duplication of issues and effort.

The reasoning mentioned there to some great extent was that the concurrent federal proceedings as duplicative and wasteful, generating additional litigation through inconsistent disposition of property.

And, number two, the concurrent proceedings creates a serious potential for spawning an unseemly and destructive waste to see which forum can resolve the same issues first prejudicial to the possibility of recent decision-making by either forum.

In the Moses Cone Hospital case, the stay reversal was affirmed because the piecemeal litigation was not avoided as to the architect in the state court.

The priority measured by progress in the suits was not in favor of stay.

The federal law was the rule of decision on the merits and the state court action was inadequate to protect the rights.

The Court--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Polly, what has happened to the state court action now.

It proceeded I understood.

Ronald Glen Polly:

--The state court action is set for trial November 4.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

I see.

Ronald Glen Polly:

The court was guided in the Moses Cone case by the federal policy and law to not delay arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act.

The court noted specifically that vexatious or reactive nature of suits may influence the decision as to whether to defer to the concurrent state action.

This occurred not only in the Moses Cone case in the Court of Appeals, but also in the Calvert case and was mentioned by this Court as having considerable merit.

In the Colorado River case, the dismissal was upheld because the McCarran Amendment federal policy to avoid piecemeal litigation of water rights in a river system.

Number two, the absence of proceedings beyond the complaint; number three, particularly the extensive involvement of state water rights involving numerous defendants and the distance between state court and Denver and the Division Seven location of the size of the water right; and number five, the existing participation of U.S. in other similar state proceedings.

There, the particular language relating to the basis for justifying the stay derives.

The court said the issue must be decided on the basis of wise judicial administration, giving regard to conservation of judicial resources and comprehensive disposition of litigation.

The court noted the virtual unflagging obligation to exercise jurisdiction.

The court also noted that the reasons of wise judicial administration are more limited and exceptional and the court indicated that there must be a weighing of factors with only the clearest of justifications.

The scales were described as consider the obligation to exercise as opposed to factors counseling against exercise.

The factors in this case are, number one, the priority of assuming jurisdiction of property, the question of in rem application.

This question has never been specifically an issue.

Roberts & Schaefer says the state action is in personam and I simply point out that that was deliberately so by Roberts Schaefer.

Byron R. White:

What do you think the federal court should have done if Roberts had to come to federal court first?