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Westfield, N.Y., Village of v. Welch's

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21016
Nos. 98-7456, 170 F.3d 116/(2d Cir., 02/26/1999)

The court holds that a district court abused its discretion by staying a village's action for a food processor's unpaid sewer user charges on the ground that there was a pending state court action addressing the same issue. The court first holds that under the abstention analysis required by Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976), the district court had no discretion to stay the case on abstention grounds. The action was not an in rem action and did not involve jurisdiction over property. The federal court is just as convenient as the state court, and the district court could not have concluded that there was more progress in the state action than in the federal action. Further, the village's inability to implead a local interested party due to the federal court's diversity jurisdiction does not justify abstention in order to prevent piecemeal litigation. Moreover, because sewer user charges pertain to the operation and maintenance of the village's water pollution plant, which was built with federal funding provided under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), the village was required to comply with FWPCA user charge provisions. Therefore, federal law, in the form of the FWPCA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, provides the rule of decision on the merits. And based on the record before the district court, it had no discretion to assume that the state court was an adequate vehicle for the prompt resolution of the issues.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Cheryll Smith Fisher
Magavern, Magavern & Grimm
1100 Rand Bldg.
14 Lafayette Sq., Buffalo NY 14203
(716) 856-3500

Counsel for Defendant
Alan M. Wishnoff
Phillips, Lytle, Hitchcock, Blaine & Huber
3400 Marine Midland Ctr., Buffalo NY 14203
(716) 847-8400

Before Walker and McLaughlin, JJ.