County of Imperial, California v. Munoz
449 U.S. 54 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

County of Imperial, California v. Munoz, 449 U.S. 54 (1980)

County of Imperial, California v. Munoz

No. 79-1003

Argued October 15, 1980

Decided December 2, 1980

449 U.S. 54

Syllabus

Petitioner county obtained an injunction in a California state court prohibiting the owner of a tract of land from selling water from a well on the premises for use outside the county in violation of a conditional use permit required by a county zoning ordinance and allowing the sale of water only for use within the county. The California Supreme Court affirmed, and this Court dismissed the tract owner's appeal. Meanwhile, respondents, merchants involved in the tract owner's sale of water to Mexico, brought suit in Federal District Court in California, challenging the conditional permit on the ground that it violated the Commerce Clause, and secured a preliminary injunction restraining petitioner county from enforcing the permit. The court rejected the county's argument that the Anti-Injunction Act -- which prohibits a federal court from granting an injunction "to stay proceedings in a State court" except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments -- operated to prohibit the court from so enjoining the county. The United States Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the state trial court proceedings had terminated, that the federal injunction, therefore, did not violate the rule that the Anti-Injunction Act cannot be evaded by addressing a federal injunction to the parties, rather than the state court, and that, moreover, under Hale v. Bimco Trading, Inc.,306 U. S. 375, third parties were not barred under that Act from challenging a statute on federal constitutional grounds when the statute was also under litigation in the state courts.

Held: The Court of Appeals erred in finding the Anti-Injunction Act inapplicable to prohibit the District Court from enjoining petitioner county from enforcing the tract owner's permit. Pp. 449 U. S. 58-60.

(a) The Court of Appeals' view that, after a state court has entered an injunction, its proceedings are concluded for Anti-Injunction Act purposes is contrary to the holding of Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers,398 U. S. 281, that, although a federal injunction against a certain party's giving effect to a state court injunction was

Page 449 U. S. 55

directed only at that party, the injunction was nevertheless one "to stay proceedings in a State court" within the meaning of the Anti-Injunction Act. Pp. 449 U. S. 559.

(b) Hale v. Bimco Trading, Inc., supra, does not govern this case, where neither the District Court nor the Court of Appeals addressed the question whether respondents were "strangers to the state court proceeding" who were not bound as though they were parties to such proceeding. Unless respondents were such "strangers," the federal injunction was barred by the Anti-Injunction Act. Pp. 449 U. S. 59-60.

604 F.2d 1174, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELI., J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 449 U. S. 60. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 449 U. S. 61. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 449 U. S. 62. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 449 U. S. 63.

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