On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.
Justice WHITE, dissenting.
Petitioner maintains operations and maintenance facilities for
its aircraft at San Francisco International Airport. Re-
Page 454 U.S.
spondent, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health
(formerly Division of Industrial Safety) of the Department of
Industrial Relations of the State of California (Cal/OSH), is
responsible for a state occupational safety and health enforcement
program, approved by the federal Occupational Safety and Health
Administration under 29 U.S.C. 667(c). The state enforcement plan
applies to all places of employment in California "except a place
the health and safety jurisdiction over which is vested by law in,
and actively exercised by, any state or federal agency other than
[Cal/OSH]." Cal.Lab.Code 6303(a) (West Supp.1981). Under 605(b) of
the Federal Aviation Act, 72 Stat. 778, as amended, 49 U. S.C.
1425(b), the Federal Aviation Administrator is required to
"employ inspectors who shall be
charged with the duty (1) of making such inspections of aircraft,
aircraft engines, propellers, and appliances designed for use in
air transportation, during manufacture, and while used by an air
carrier in air transportation, as may be necessary to enable the
Secretary of Transportation to determine that such aircraft,
aircraft engines, propellers, and appliances are in safe condition
and are properly maintained for operation in air transportation . .
Petitioner contends that the operation of the federal scheme of
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supervision pre-empts
enforcement of the state scheme by Cal/OSH.
Between June 1976 and August 1978, Cal/OSH conducted a number of
inspections of petitioner's San Francisco facilities. As a result
of these inspections, a number of citations were issued, alleging
violations of various health and safety standards. In each
instance, United contested the citations, arguing that Cal/OSH
lacked jurisdiction over its facilities because of pre-emption by
the FAA. Prior to the completion of litigation in the state
agencies and courts, United filed a complaint in Federal District
Court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against further
Cal/OSH inspections and citations.*
Page 454 U.S.
Specifically, United alleged that the actions of the defendants
were " beyond their jurisdictional authority, interfer[ed] with and
disrupt[ed] the federal statutory scheme with respect to safety . .
. and violate[d] United's right to due process of law." The
District Court granted petitioner a preliminary injunction
prohibiting further enforcement by Cal/OSH or the Appeals Board.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, 613 F.2d
, holding that the complaint should be dismissed for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. 663 F.2d
The Court of Appeals confused two distinct lines of reasoning.
One of these lines I find unobjectionable, although improperly
applied in this case; the other, however, substantially misread our
previous cases on when the "defensive" character of a federal
question is insufficient to create federal-court jurisdiction. The
first argument noted simply that the mere fact that California has
incorporated a body of federal law as the basis for a state-law
distinction does not necessarily cause a case under the state law
to be also a case under the law of the United States. Had United
raised only the question of the meaning of the limits on 6303( a)'s
grant of authority to Cal/OSH, this would have been correct and
sufficient to dispose of the case. United's complaint, however, was
not so limited. Petitioner alleged that the state action interfered
with and disrupted the federal statutory scheme. This can only be
read as a claim of federal pre-emption. The Court of Appeals
responded, erroneously in my view, to this issue of pre-emption by
characterizing it as defensive and an inadequate basis for
"In the instant case, United is a
defendant in the state court action to enforce citations issued by
Page 454 U.S.
and has stated that it has asserted and will continue to assert
jurisdictional defenses in that action. Therefore, United's
allegations of federal question jurisdiction in this appeal remain
defensive in nature, and it cannot assert its jurisdictional
objections to the state court action as a basis for jurisdiction in
the federal courts." 633 F.2d, at 817.
In Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149
plaintiff in Federal District Court had settled a claim against a
railroad in exchange for a continuing free pass, a contract which
the railroad, it was alleged, would no longer honor because of a
recently passed federal statute. The plaintiff sought a judgment as
to whether the Act forbade the free pass and, if it did, whether it
was constitutional as applied in the circumstances. This Court held
that the case was not a suit arising under the laws of the United
States: "It is not enough that the plaintiff alleges some
anticipated defense to his cause of action and asserts that the
defense is invalidated by some [federal law]." Id., at 152. Other
cases are to the same effect. Tennessee v. Union & Planters
, 14 S. Ct. 654 (1894); Metcalf v. Watertown, 128 U.S. 586
In each of the above cases, the federal plaintiff's cause of
action against the defendant was not grounded in federal law; he
merely sought to adjudicate the validity of an anticipated defense
to his action. Here, United's complaint, as I read it, included the
claim that under federal law the FAA had exclusive jurisdiction to
oversee safety at airline maintenance facilities and therefore,
under the Supremacy Clause, state regulation was foreclosed. No
part of this claim was grounded in state law.
In Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218
Illinois Commerce Commission set for hearing a complaint that a
warehouseman was charging illegal rates under state law. The
Commission denied the warehouseman's
Page 454 U.S.
claim that the United States Warehouse Act superseded the
authority of the Commission to regulate in the manner sought by the
complaint. The warehouseman then filed a complaint in the United
States District Court seeking an injunction against further state
proceedings on the ground that the federal statute pre-empted state
regulation. The Court of Appeals sustained this claim, and this
Court affirmed. Federal jurisdiction, which was unchallenged, was
grounded on 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 1337; federal jurisdiction, of
course, could not have existed if foreclosed by the fact that the
federal claim could be and was presented as a defense in the state
proceedings. Rice is but a significant example of a familiar
pattern: the person or concern threatened by or involved in state
enforcement proceedings repairs to the federal court claiming that
the state law and the state proceedings have been pre-empted by
congressional enactment. Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 435 U.S. 151
Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519
Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, 411 U.S. 624
Florida Avocado Growers v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132
Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52
the complaint in this case, in addition to claiming federal
pre-emption, may also have claimed that the state law should not be
construed to reach airline maintenance facilities does not defeat
federal jurisdiction based on the pre-emption claim.
The suggestion that a defendant in a pending or threatened state
action based on state law is foreclosed on jurisdictional grounds
from seeking a federal declaratory judgment or an injunction based
on the claim that the state action is barred by a federal statute
or the Federal Constitution makes little sense in light of the
holdings of this Court. Under the Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
( 1971), line
of cases, comity and federalism require a federal court to hold its
hand and dismiss rather than interfere with a pending state
criminal proceeding, by adjudicating a federal defense that has
been or might be raised in that proceeding. Certain civil
Page 454 U.S.
subject to the same rule. But these holdings do not rest on
jurisdictional grounds, and they do not apply when a state
proceeding is not pending and in any event do not apply to all
civil proceedings. Furthermore, if there is never federal
jurisdiction when a state defendant has a dispositive defense
grounded in federal law, the Anti-Injunction Act would be
surplusage. Under this theory, all such litigants would be required
to pursue their federal claims in state court. Perhaps they should,
but that is not what the present jurisdictional statutes and our
cases construing them require.
The Court of Appeals relied on Public Service Comm'n of Utah v.
Wycoff Co., 344 U.S.
, 248, 242 (1952), where the federal plaintiff sought to
preclude regulatory action by a State Public Service Commission on
the grounds that his shipments were in interstate commerce. This
Court held that the action should be dismissed because the federal
claim was too abstract, anticipatory, and not ripe for decision.
The Court also said:
"Where the complaint in an action for
declaratory judgment seeks in essence to assert a defense to an
impending or threatened state court action, it is the character of
the threatened action, and not of the defense, which will determine
whether there is federal-question jurisdiction in the District
Court. If the cause of action, which the declaratory defendant
threatens to assert, does not itself involve a claim under federal
law, it is doubtful if a federal court may entertain an action for
a declaratory judgment establishing a defense to that claim. This
is dubious even though the declaratory complaint sets forth a claim
of federal right, if that right is in reality in the nature of a
defense to a threatened cause of action. Federal courts will not
seize litigations from state courts merely because one, normally a
defendant, goes to federal court to begin his federal-law defense
before the state court begins the case under state law." Ibid.
Page 454 U.S.
But the Court did no more than raise doubts about federal
jurisdiction in such a case; indeed, it went on to say:
"[I]t is not necessary to determine
whether, on this record, the alleged controversy over an action
that may be begun in state court would be maintainable under the
head of federal-question jurisdiction . But we advert to doubts
upon that subject to indicate the injury that would be necessary if
the case clearly rested merely on threatened suit in state court,
as, for all we can learn, it may." Id., at 248-249, 73 S. Ct. at
In my view, the holding below is wrong. In any event, it is an
extraordinarily important jurisdictional holding and should be
reviewed in this Court. I therefore dissent from the denial of
] Petitioner also sought
to enjoin the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board of the
State of California from conducting further proceedings related to
enforcement of the citations already issued.