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Northwest Forest Resource Council v. Dombeck

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 21043
Nos. 96-5211, 107 F.3d 897/(D.C. Cir., 03/07/1997)

The court reverses a district court opinion that the stare decisis effect of a decision by a federal district court in Washington State bars appellants' current challenge to the president's 1994 forest plan. The court holds that stare decisis does not require a district court in one circuit to follow the decision of a district court in another circuit. The court rejects the government's argument that principles of comity rather than stare decisis motivated the district court opinion. The trial court judge repeatedly referred to the doctrine of stare decisis and never mentioned comity. Further, the doctrine of comity would not support dismissal of this case. Comity is rarely employed to justify the dismissal of viable claims that are otherwise properly before the court. Rather, in strictly limited circumstances, comity may warrant dismissal of an action where there is a case pending in another jurisdiction involving the same parties, issue, and subject matter. This case, however, involves at least some parties not before the court in the Washington federal district court. Further, the proceedings in that court were no longer pending when the district court ordered dismissal of appellants' claims. The court then remands the case to the district court to consider whether appellants' claims are barred by issue or claim preclusion.

[Related decisions are published at 22 ELR 21471, 23 ELR 21148, 24 ELR 20437, 25 ELR 20711, and 26 ELR 20980.]

Counsel for Appellants
Mark C. Rutzick
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae
Koin Center
222 SW Columbia, Ste. 1600, Portland OR 97201
(503) 294-3095

Counsel for Appellees
David C. Shilton
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: EDWARDS, Chief Judge, WALD and TATEL, Circuit Judges.